Introducing the Recipient of the 2016 Gordon Getty Grant: Margaret Crofoot

Gordon Getty

The Gordon P. Getty Grant was established in 2013 to commemorate Chairman Gordon Getty’s forty years of generosity and commitment to The Leakey Foundation and to the science of human origins. The grant is awarded once a year to a researcher or researchers who show extraordinary originality and dedication in their intellectual and professional pursuits while exemplifying a multidisciplinary approach to human origins research.

In December 2016 the Gordon P. Getty Grant was awarded to Margaret Crofoot for her project entitled “Dominance, social stability and the emergence of collective decisions in complex societies.”

Margaret Crofoot

Margaret Crofoot is an assistant professor at the University of California at Davis and a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. She is interested in the evolution of complex social systems, specifically understanding how collective (group) behaviors emerge from interactions among individuals and how group traits impact individual fitness. She uses remote tracking technology in conjunction with field-based experiments and observational methods to explore group movement and decision-making, coordinated territorial defense, and other collective behaviors in primate social groups. She has a BA from Stanford and an MA and a PhD from Harvard.

Stay tuned for a new Origin Stories podcast featuring Dr. Crofoot!

Video: Tania Lombrozo, The Primates Who Tell Stories

Did you miss our March 2016 Being Human event at Public Works featuring Tania Lombrozo? Or maybe you would like to revisit this talk about “The Primates Who Tell Stories.” We are pleased to bring you the video from this fascinating exploration of humans’ unique storytelling ability and how these “stories,” or explanations, are central to our sense of understanding the world around us.


Check out all of our Being Human videos on YouTube by clicking here.

Introducing Our Fall 2016 Grantees

The Leakey Foundation held a granting session on December 3, 2016. Our Board of Trustees unanimously approved twenty-one research grant proposals for funding.

Here are some numbers from our fall 2016 granting cycle:

There were 96 applications for research grants this cycle.

36% of the proposals were categorized as behavioral, and 64% were paleoanthropology.

456 reviews were submitted to our grants department this cycle. Thank you to our reviewers! We could not do it without you.

We would like to congratulate all of our new grantees, and we look forward to sharing news and information about them and their research along the way!


Margaret Crofoot (Gordon Getty Grant recipient), University of California, Davis:  Dominance, social stability and the emergence of collective decisions in complex societies

Piotr Fedurek, University of Roehampton:  The effect of social integration on physiological stress levels in a small-scale society

Brenna Henn, Stony Brook University:  Testing for ancient population structure in southern Africa via extensive DNA collection

Charles Menzel, Georgia State University:  Studies of chimpanzee episodic memory and foraging

Liza Moscovice, Emory University:  Explaining patterns of within and between-group cooperation among LuiKotale bonobos

Carina Schlebusch, Uppsala University:  Genotype variation in populations with Khoe-San ancestry from southern Africa

Erin Vogel, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey:  Coping with a challenging environment: Nutritional immunology in wild Bornean orangutans

Monica Wakefield, Northern Kentucky University:  Genetic census and habituation of bonobos at Iyema (Lomako, DRC)

Meike Zemihn, Leiden University:  Tracing the origins of language: Syntax in common marmosets (Brazil)


Hilary Duke, Stony Brook University:  Taking shape: Investigating the earliest Acheulean at Kokiselei, Kenya (1.8-1.76Ma)

Paul Manger, University of the Witwatersrand:  Ape brains in a comparative perspective, South Africa

Fredrick Manthi, National Museums of Kenya:  Further investigations of Middle Pleistocene sites in Natodomeri, northwestern Kenya

Emma Mbua, National Museums of Kenya:  Further fieldwork research at Kantis Fossil Site

Kelly Ostrofsky, The George Washington University:  Comparison of vertical climbing and suspension in wild African apes

Brian Schilder, The George Washington University:  The evolution of the hippocampus and adult neurogenesis: Novel insights into the origins of human memory

Stephanie Schnorr, University of Oklahoma:  Physiological relevance of salivary amylase copy number variation for starch digestion in human evolution

Sileshi Semaw, CENIEH:  Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project

Ron Shimelmitz, University of Haifa:  New excavations at Skhul Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel

Thierry Smith, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences:  Diversity and relationships of earliest Euprimates from Tadkeshwar Mine, India

Matt Tocheri, Lakehead University:  New archaeological excavations at Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia)

Scott Williams, New York University:  Skeletal contributions to lumbar lordosis in recent and fossil hominins

The Grant Application Deadline Approaches!

by H. Gregory, Grants Associate

Paddy Moore and H. Gregory, The Leakey Foundation grants department

Paddy Moore and H. Gregory, The Leakey Foundation grants department

As most of you grant seekers are aware, the deadline to apply for a Leakey Foundation Research Grant in our spring 2017 cycle is January 10th. Because I am on the receiving end of our grants department email, I can tell there is a lot of grant writing going on around the world right now. While you get those proposals submitted, I thought I would share with you a few pointers based on some of the questions we have received.

Yes, something has changed. We now have a two page limit for appendices, supplemental attachments, and figures and tables combined. We will begin strictly enforcing the limit during our spring 2017 cycle.

Pay close attention to your budget. As the instructions state, we do not fund things such as equipment, trips to conferences, or salaries for senior project personnel. My advice on the budget is to move items that might be questionable to the budget column of other funding agencies to which you are applying. We do not outright reject budgets that have items we do not fund, but we will exclude those items if need be. Also, be careful with salaries. Proposals where the bulk of the requested funds are for salaries may not be seen by some as a good use of Leakey funds.

Letters of recommendation are typically late. If you are having a problem getting the letter in on time (for whatever reason), please do not worry. We will accept them for the coming weeks.

Finally, we rarely grant extensions to the deadline; however, we always consider proposals to be on time if they are in the system when we press “retrieve.” This always occurs the next business day after the deadline, which is Wednesday morning California time…

I wish all of you the best of success.

Questions or concerns? Email us!

Grantee Spotlight: Marie-Hélène Moncel

Marie-Hélène Moncel is a director of research at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France. She was awarded a Leakey Foundation research grant during our spring 2016 cycle for her project entitled “Early evidence of Acheulean bifacial technology in Europe. New fieldwork at Notarchirico (Italy).”

The site of Notarchirico, located in the Venosa Basin (Basilicata), is a key site with several levels of occupation dated to 650,000 years ago. This site has yielded the earliest bifaces in Italy, associated with faunal remains and one hominid bone.

Elephant fossil at the archaeological site of Notarchirico, Venosa. Photo: Generale Lee (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The bottom of the sequence is securely dated to more than 650,000 years and was little excavated in the past. In this project, we intend to re-open excavations in the oldest layers with an international and multidisciplinary team in order to enhance our understanding of the earliest Italian evidence of bifacial technology.

The onset of bifacial technology occurred in Europe during the key time period of 800,000-500,000 years, possibly related to dispersals of Homo heidelbergensis. The main goal of this project is to focus on the technological and subsistence behaviors of hominids working bifaces at 650,000 years ago in Southern Europe in their environmental contexts, and to compare them to behaviors of hominids living in the north of Europe. The climatic data from Southern Europe attest to mild conditions, and continuous occupations are explained in some areas by the presence of rich volcanic territories.

Moncel and her team completed their field season late this summer. We look forward to hearing about how the excavations went!