Paleontologist to discuss the evolution of life before animals

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Associate Professor of Geosciences Phoebe Cohen will present a lecture on "The Evolution of Life before Animals: Building Shields, Dodging Snowballs, and Gasping for Breath" as part of the annual Williams College Faculty Lecture Series. The lecture will take place on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 4:15 p.m. in Wege Auditorium, with a reception to follow in Schow Atrium. This event is free and open to the public.

A paleontologist, Cohen uses data gathered in the field and in the lab to reconstruct ancient organisms and ecosystems in order to understand how complex life has evolved along with the rest of the earth system. With a focus on the Proterozoic period, dating back 2,500 million years ago, she examines effects of dramatic changes to the Earth to understand the roots of animal origins and evolution. Such changes include increased levels of oxygen, changing geochemical conditions, and at least two "Snowball Earth" events in which the entire globe was encased in ice.

Cohen earned her A.B. from Cornell and her Ph.D. from Harvard. She joined the faculty at Williams in 2012 and was awarded the Geological Society of America Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science Award that same year.

The Faculty Lecture Series was founded in 1911 by Catherine Mariotti Pratt, the spouse of a faculty member who wanted to "relieve the tedium of long New England winters with an opportunity to hear Williams professors talk about issues that really mattered to them." From these humble and lighthearted beginnings, the Faculty Lecture Series has grown to become an important forum for tenured professors to share their latest research with the larger intellectual community of the college.

The series will continue on Feb. 21 with Maria Elena Cepeda, professor of Latina/o studies, who will discuss "Latina Feminist Moments of Recognition: A U.S. Colombiana Encounter with Bomba Estereo's `Soy yo.'"

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