CCAS Research

Forecasting Wildfires

Each year, raging wildfires destroy thousands of acres of land, homes, and lives. The staggering toll of destruction underscores the importance of predicting when and how wildfires occur—a feat Assistant Professor of Geography Michael Mann is helping to tackle.

By examining statistical data on California wildfires dating back more than 60 years, Mann has created a model that forecasts the likelihood of wildfires in the state through the year 2050. His predictions are based on climate variations, indicators of tree and plant growth, population density, and potential ignition sources.


Decision-Making Debunked

What factors guide the decisions we make? Past experience? The influence of loved ones? Our environment? The answer is none of the above, according to Sarah Shomstein, associate professor of cognitive neuroscience. Her research indicates that choices, both voluntary and involuntary, are ultimately based on the perception of whether or not we will receive a reward.

Akos Vertes in his lab

Major New Research Grants at Columbian

Topping the list of grants received in recent months was a $14.6 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to a team led by Akos Vertes (Chemistry). The researchers are tasked to develop a method that will rapidly identify the root of biological and chemical threats and thereby bolster national security efforts in combating future dangers.

In Brief

Aida Gómez-Robles, a hominid paleobiology postdoctoral scientist, led a team of international scholars in a groundbreaking study of ancient teeth that sheds new light on human evolution. By analyzing 1,200 teeth representing 13 types of ancient humans, the team determined that none of the species suspected of being the ancestral link between modern humans and Neanderthals actually fit the bill. The study also suggests that, while modern humans and Neanderthals evolved together for a time, the two species may have diverged hundreds of thousands of years earlier than previously thought— findings that may alter science’s timeline of the steps involved in human evolution.


A Wine Cellar for the Ages

Anthropology Professor Eric H. Cline and a team of American and Israeli researchers have unearthed what could be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The group made the discovery at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site in Israel, the ruins of a northern Canaanite city that dates back to 1700 B.C. As they excavated the site, once the vast palace of the city’s rulers, they uncovered a three-foot-long jar which they christened “Bessie.”


Sighting In The Sky

Few people star-gaze quite the same way as Oleg Kargalstev. When the assistant professor of physics looks into the sky, he doesn’t just spot constellations and comets. He sees celestial phenomenon no one has ever laid eyes on before.

Amy Zanne holding a red leaf

Time Tree Maps How Plants Evolved for Chilly Climates

Cold weather isn't kind to flowering plants. As temperatures dip, leaves wilt and branches become barren. It's a wonder many plants survive a freezing winter. In fact, their ancestors would not have made it to the spring; they would have perished in the mildest frost because early flowering plants were never found outside of warm, wet tropical environments.