Yesterday, Tumamoc hosted a memorial celebration for Dr. Paul S. Martin, former director of the Desert Lab, who died last September 2010. From the turn-out, which filled the patio, it is clear that Paul was not only a well-respected scientist, but well loved by many people.
It was also interesting to observe such a large gathering of people blending so harmoniously into the desert surroundings of the building.
Nominally a professor in Geosciences at the University of Arizona, Paul’s wide interests and research could not be contained in any one field and he was considered a luminary among ecologists, paleontologists, and archeologists, as well. He is best known for his “blitzkrieg” theory explaining the extinction of the large ice-age mammals?ground sloths, camels, mammoths and mastodons?which once populated the North America in numbers similar to those that still roam Africa today.
Going contrary to prevailing dogmas about climate change, Paul’s research suggested that, around 11,000 years ago, early humans over-hunted these impressive animals, effectively wiping them out of the ecosystem that we know today. The only remnant of these large mammals was the herds of bison encountered by Anglo explorers of the American west. As we know, they all but exterminated them within recent history.
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