Zarin Machanda on Chimpanzee Communication and Relationships

Did you know chimpanzees make vocalizations unique to their situation, such as when they first see a snake in the forest?

This month’s featured video is primatologist Zarin Machanda’s talk from The Leakey Foundation’s new web series Lunch Break Science. Dr. Machanda is assistant professor of anthropology at Tufts University and director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project. Her talk explores the surprisingly nuanced world of chimpanzee vocalizations and gestures. She also teaches you how to pant-hoot like a chimpanzee! 

Tune in for new episodes of Lunch Break Science live on Facebook, YouTube, and every Thursday through August 27 at 11 am Pacific • 12 pm Mountain • 1 pm Central • 2 pm Eastern.

Introducing the 2020 Baldwin Fellows

The Leakey Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of the 2020 Franklin Mosher Baldwin Memorial Fellowships.

Franklin Mosher Baldwin Memorial Fellowships are awarded to graduate students from countries where there are limited opportunities for advanced training and education in fields of research related to the study of human origins.

Many countries possess extraordinary resources in the field of prehistory but lack educational opportunities in the field of human origins research. By enabling bright young scholars to obtain graduate education, The Leakey Foundation is helping to equip these individuals to assume a leadership role in the future of paleoanthropology and primatology.

The Baldwin Fellowship program was established in 1978, and since then, many Baldwin Fellows such as Berhane Asfaw, Job Kibii, Mzalendo Kibunjia, Jackson Njau, Agazi Negash, Emma Mbua, and Fredrick Manthi (to name only a few) have gone on to have distinguished careers.

New Baldwin Fellows

Nico Alamsyah at Pictured Lake, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He and several classmates were invited by technicians and professors from the Department of Anthropology, Lakehead University to record those pictographs using a 3D scanner. The pictographs contain pictures of boats, humans, and several kinds of animals.

Nico Alamsyah – Indonesia

Mr. Alamsyah is currently on leave as a research archaeologist at the Indonesian National Research Centre of Archaeology while pursuing a master’s degree. Building on his work at Liang Bua, he intends to learn the techniques of zooarchaeological analysis in order to study the 270,000+ faunal specimens from this site to elucidate the paleoecology of Homo floresiensis.  As well, he will learn stable isotope analysis techniques to be able to reconstruct the diets of this faunal assemblage. Upon completion of his studies, he will return to his permanent position at the National Research Centre where he plans to establish a dedicated zooarchaeological laboratory. In conjunction with the University of Indonesia, he also intends to seek government funding to build a stable isotope facility there.

Penina Emanuel Kadalida at the EAAPP (Eastern Africa Association for Paleoanthropology and Paleontology) conference that was held in the National Museums of Kenya, in Nairobi 2019. Behind me, is a statue of the late Louis Leakey.

Penina Emanuel Kadalida – Tanzania

Ms. Kadalida is pursuing a PhD to become a broadly trained paleoanthropologist. She wants to learn to analyze/interpret biological evidence, such as skeletal and faunal remains, and cultural evidence, such as stone tools and other artifacts, with the goal of understanding the evolution and development of hominins. Specifically, her research will concentrate on finding evidence for Acheulian biface variability and distribution as an indicator of hominid mobility in Northern Tanzania, especially at a newly discovered site on the Mbulu Plateau. She is currently an assistant lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, teaching basics in archaeology. Upon completing her doctoral studies, her goal is to become a senior researcher in paleoanthropology and to expand research capabilities in Tanzania by establishing a paleoanthropological lab there.

Alaz Peker during a visit to Nasera Rockshelter in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania in 2018

Alaz Deniz Peker – Turkey

Miss Peker has an MS degree in bioarchaeology from Istanbul University. During her Master’s studies, she participated in the Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP) field school where she had the opportunity to learn survey and excavation techniques, stone tool identification, paleobotany, paleoenvironmental research, zooarchaeology, geology, geochemistry. She became particularly interested in taphonomy and zooarchaeology. Her doctoral research at Olduvai will focus on taphonomic investigation of the faunal remains from the 1.35 million-year-old BK site in Bed II. She intends to model the formation and paleoecology at this site with an actualistic study of modern bone accumulations on the Serengeti. After completing her doctorate, she plans to return to Istanbul University to teach where, despite the need and demand for qualified research and researchers, zooarchaeology is not a course that is available to students. Her ultimate goal is to establish a Paleolithic research center in Istanbul. 

Wasim Abass Wazir during field research at Ramnagar, a homonid locality in Udampur, Jammu and Kashmir in India

Wasim Abass Wazir – India

Mr. Wazir is pursuing a doctorate in order to increase his knowledge of paleoanthropology and mammalian systematics. His focus is on Oligo-Miocene catarrhine evolution, including the initial dispersal and radiation of hominoid apes that appear in the later Middle-Late Miocene of Asia. He intends to conduct his fieldwork in sites of the Ladakh/Kargil Himalayas. He has already conducted pilot research in some of these deposits, during which he collected fossil and rock samples for stratigraphic and paleontological studies for his doctoral thesis. His broader career goal is to have a university level academic position in India in order to promote and train students in primate evolution and paleontology.

Returning Baldwin Fellows

Niguss Gitaw Baraki and his adviser Dr. David Braun stand in front of the Oldest Oldowan assemblage (The BD1 stone tools) in the world. They were preparing to give a press conference for the discovery of these stone tools from Ethiopia at the National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.

Niguss Baraki – Ethiopia

Mr. Baraki is a PhD candidate in the paleoanthropology program at George Washington University. His advisor is David Braun. He is studying the record of stone artifacts and hominin fossils to elucidate how our ancestors made and used stone artifacts. His particular interests include examining the relationship between human behavior, anatomical development (explicitly human hand morphology), and the influence of cultural innovation over time on the evolution of human adaptive changes. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management at Addis. Upon completion of his PhD, he intends to return there to train students to participate in research both in the field and in the laboratory. David Braun states: “I have no doubt that Mr. Baraki will be a major figure in the study of human evolution within the coming years.”

Mariam Bundala (right) and her field assistant (left) Mr. Gido Lasway surveying the Lower Member of the Manyara Beds at Makuyuni site 4 in Tanzania in 2019. Ms. Bundala is also the recipient of a Leakey Foundation research grant.

Mariam Bundala – Tanzania

Ms. Bundala is a PhD candidate at University of Calgary. She is studying landscape use and how environmental change has impacted human evolution. By identifying phytoliths from paleosols, it is possible to infer the long-term aspects of local ecology including: the vegetation structure, spatial heterogeneity, and habitat shifts of hominin paleoenvironments. For her PhD project, she is analyzing phytoliths from the Manyara Beds in Tanzania which are among the most important Middle Pleistocene sequences in East Africa. Her research could significantly contribute to our knowledge on the appearance of archaic Homo sapiens and the disappearance of the Acheulean Industry in Africa.
She is currently an assistant lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After earning her doctorate, she intends to return there as lecturer and a senior researcher where she would be the only woman on the academic staff.

Deepak Choudhary collecting Listridon Specimen from Tappar, a hominid locality in Kutch, Gujrat, India.

Deepak Choudhary – India

Mr. Choudhary has a master’s degree in earth and geological sciences from the University of Punjab and is now pursuing his PhD at CUNY. The focus of his studies is primate paleontology and evolution. He will conduct research in the Siwalik collections at the American Museum of Natural History where he hopes to expand his ability to identify Miocene mammalian fauna. After obtaining his PhD, he plans to continue in academia in India.

Husna Mashaka collecting data at the Kisese II rock shelter in Tanzania.

Husna Mashaka – Tanzania

Ms. Mashaka is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Nairobi. Her area of interest is phytolith analysis. While a student at the Koobi Fora Field School, she examined how accurately phytoliths can document the changes in vegetation cover in East Turkana during the Holocene. For her master’s thesis, she plans to reconstruct the paleoevironment of the Kisese II landscapes at Kondoa, Tanzania, by using proxy data from phytoliths. Her ultimate goal is to earn her PhD. She intends to return to Tanzania to pursue a career in archaeological research and cultural heritage management.

Nadia Saidani sorting fossil microfaunal bones from the Tighennif (Formerly Ternifine, Algeria) hominin site, under the binocular microscope.

Nadia Saidani – Algeria

Ms. Saidani has two master’s degrees, one from the University of Algiers (Algeria) in archaeology with a specialization in Prehistoric studies and a master’s degree in quaternary geology and prehistory from the University Rovira I Virgili (Spain). She is currently a PhD candidate at the University Rovira studying micropaleontology and supervised by Professor J. Agusti Ballester. She has fieldwork experience in Algeria, participating in excavations at the Oldowan sites of Ain Boucherit and Ain Hanech, and the Acheulean site of Tighennif under the supervision of Professor Mohamed Sahnouni. She intends to gain scientific expertise in microvertebrate paleontology and to fill a gap in microfaunal studies in Algeria.

Peiqi Zhang participating in an excavation on the Tibetan Plateau in China.

Peiqi Zhang – China

Ms. Zhang is a second-year PhD student in paleoanthropology in the Department of Anthropology (advisor Dr. Nicolas Zwyns) at University of California. Her home institute is the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where she obtained a master’s degree of paleontology and stratigraphy. She is particularly interested in the issue of modern human dispersal between North Asia and North China, and the early human settlements on the Tibetan Plateau. She hopes to address long-standing scientific questions regarding modern humans in north China and the subsequent adaptation to high-altitude environments. As much research is written only in Chinese, she recognizes that language barriers constitute a serious obstacle to the circulation of data and ideas. She would like to contribute to increased collaborations between Chinese-and English-speaking researchers.

Introducing Our Spring 2020 Grantees

The Leakey Foundation held our “virtual” spring 2020 granting session on May 2, 2020. Our board of trustees unanimously approved 31 research grant proposals for funding.

Here are some numbers from our spring 2020 granting cycle:

There were 102 applications for research grants.

32% were behavioral applications. 68% were paleoanthropological applications.

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

Congratulations to our new grantees. We look forward to sharing news and information about them and their research!


Dr. Margaret Corley working in the Yale Reproductive Ecology Laboratory.

Margaret Corley, Yale University: Hormonal correlates of pair-bonding and biparental care in owl monkeys

Patricia DeLacey in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. She is kneeling next to a leader male gelada who is being groomed by an adult female. In this photo, she is about to begin data collection as the geladas have just started their day.

Patricia DeLacey, University of Michigan: Is the chest patch a sexually selected signal in geladas

Jacob Feder conducting focal observations of geladas in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.

Jacob Feder, Stony Brook University: Patterns of social bonds and developmental outcomes in juvenile geladas

Anthony Massaro searching for chimpanzees in Gombe National Park.

Anthony Massaro, University of Minnesota: Demographic effects on reproductive competition and cooperation in male chimpanzee

Lais Moreira at UMA Hilda O’Farril, environmental management unit, Mexico.

Lais Moreira, University of Calgary: The potential use of chemical communication in black-handed spider monkey

Sandro Sehner, Anthropological Institute and Museum UZH: The evolution of teaching: A broad perspective on information donation in primates

Antoine Souron in front of Ngorongoro Crater, on his way to Olduvai to study Pleistocene Tanzanian mammals

Antoine Souron, PACEA UMR 5199, Université de Bordeaux: Detecting seasonal consumption of plant underground storage organs by geladas

Samantha Stead in a forest fragment near Lake Nabugabo, Uganda, where she was collecting observational data and fecal samples from Rwenzori Angolan colobus monkeys.

Samantha Stead, University of Toronto: Allomaternal care and maternal energetics in wild Rwenzori Angolan colobus monkeys

Shasta Webb in Sector Santa Rosa, Área de Conservacion Guanacaste, Costa Rica in 2018. She was collecting behavioral and dietary data, as well as fecal samples, from wild white-faced capuchin monkeys to better understand how they respond to natural changes and pressures in seasonal environments through altering their behaviour, diet, and gut microbes.

Photo by David Hormann.

Shasta Webb, University of Calgary: Understanding digestive flexibility through gut microbiome changes at short timescales

Eva Wikberg is using dictaphone and binoculars to collect observational data of Colobus vellerosus at Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, Ghana.

Eva Wikberg, University of Texas at San Antonio: Causes and consequences of behavioral flexibility in the Boabeng-Fiema population of Colobus vellerosus: Is social flexibility sufficient for coping with changing environments


Daniel S. Adler on survey near Aparan, Armenia, 2017.

Daniel Adler, University of Connecticut: The Early to Late Pleistocene settlement of Northern Armenia

Julia Arenson in the Wind River Basin, Wyoming on a field expedition exploring early mammalian and primate evolution in the Eocene of North America.

Julia Arenson, Research Foundation of CUNY: Hominin phylogenetic methodology: A comparative test using colobine evolutionary history

Lucinda Backwell, Mansweta Heinrich (forefront), Xoa//’an /ai!ae, and Francesco d’Errico in Tsumkwe, Namibia.

Lucinda Backwell, University of the Witwatersrand: Border Cave: Cradle of early modern humans in South Africa

Mariam Bundala (right) and her field assistant (left) Mr. Gido Lasway surveying the Lower Member of the Manyara Beds at Makuyuni site 4 in Tanzania in 2019.

Mariam Bundala, University of Calgary: Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Manyara Beds (Tanzania) using phytolith analysis

Dr. Habiba Chirchir holding a cast of Lucy’s femur and a modern human femur in her lab at Marshall University in WV, about to demonstrate how to use a peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography scanner

Habiba Chirchir, Marshall University: Trabecular bone morphology, gracilization and locomotion in Koobi Fora hominins

Tessa Cicak standing in front of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History after completing a research visit to their primate collection.

Tessa Cicak, University of Minnesota: Examining the role of competition in primate dietary morphology and isotopes

Rob Davis (right) and Becky Scott undertaking a fire experiment during the 2019 field season at the Lower Paleolithic site at Barnham, Suffolk, UK.

Robert Davis, British Museum: Burning question: Fire-use in northwest Europe 400,000 years ago

Hyunwoo Jung, PhD candidate at the Buffalo Human Evolutionary Morphology Lab, University at Buffalo

Hyunwoo Jung, University at Buffalo SUNY: Developmental and functional integration in the axial skeleton of anthropoids

Somaye Khaksar in the lithics lab at the University of Minnesota, getting prepared to work on an experimental lithic assemblage for her PhD research.

Somaye Khaksar, University of Minnesota: The effect of edge segmentation on lithic blank cutting efficiency and technological transitions in the Pleistocene

John Kingston at the summit of the Tugen Hills, just west of Lake Baringo, in the Central Kenyan Rift Valley. That day, Kingston and his team were prospecting for fossil hominoid sites in older sediments around 10-12 million years old. The landscape behind him is about 2500 meters high and lush with farms and villages. Vegetation makes prospecting for fossil sites challenging. Just a few years ago, this area took 6-8 hours to get to from the lake but new roads have just been introduced, providing better access that Kingston hopes will make it easier to find more sites.

John Kingston, University of Michigan: Beyond the “mosaic paradigm”: Characterizing habitat heterogeneity in hominin evolution

Alexandra Kralick with the orangutan male that inspired her project. She’s holding the skull of an adult unflanged male orangutan from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Collection.

Alexandra Kralick, University of Pennsylvania: CT scan analysis of orangutan skeletal measurements and Its relationship to secondary sexual characteristic development

William Lukens, James Madison University: Paleoenvironments of early-middle Miocene catarrhine localities in West Turkana, Kenya

Alexander Mackay at Klipfonteinrand, in South Africa in 2011.

Alexander Mackay, University of Wollongong: The organization of Still Bay technology in southern Africa

Carrie Mongle at work at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.

Carrie Mongle, American Museum of Natural History: Re-evaluating human evolution: The role of postcranial data in reconstructing hominin evolutionary relationships

As a molecular anthropologist studying human evolutionary genomics, Samantha Queeno’s “fieldwork” takes place in the lab. Here she is in the Molecular Anthropology Group cell lab at the University of Oregon “feeding” liver cells.

Samantha Queeno, University of Oregon: MicroRNAs, myofibers, and the evolution of endurance locomotion in hominins

Hailay Reda at the Galili Research Area, in the Afar Regionin of Ethiopia. His work aims to reconstruct the environments ancient hominins lived in.

Hailay Reda, University of Oregon: Reconstructing the paleoecology of Woranso-Mille hominins using cercopithecids.

Jonathan Reeves holding a fragment of a Bovid mandible on an excavation in South Africa.

Jonathan Reeves, Institute for Archaeological Sciences: Detecting signatures of social information transfer in the Early Pleistocene: A least effort approach

Jeffrey Spear, New York University: Integration and homoplasy in the forelimb of suspensory primates

Jessica Thompson leading excavations at the Hora 1 site in northern Malawi. People in the background from left to right are: Daudi Mwangomba, Benjamin Nkosi, and Joseph Nkosi.

Jessica Thompson, Yale University: Late Pleistocene environments and hunter-gatherer adaptations in the Kasitu Valley of Malawi

Yossi Zaidner in the field before the beginning of 2019 season of excavations at Tinshemet Cave in Israel.

Yossi Zaidner, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: New Middle Paleolithic human fossils from the Levant: Excavations at Tinshemet Cave, Israel

Angel Zeininger (right) teaching children at the North Carolina Zoo about great ape anatomy, behavior, and conservation.

Angel Zeininger Duke University Foot posture in orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) and the evolution of human heel strike

Summer Virtual Series Lunch Break Science Launches June 25

The Leakey Foundation is excited to announce our summer virtual series Lunch Break Science will be streaming to our Facebook and YouTube pages starting Thursday, June 25 at 11 am PDT.

Have you ever wondered why humans need to be social? How science can help us become healthier? What is it like to study chimpanzees in the wild? Grab your lunch and join The Leakey Foundation on Thursdays for Lunch Break Science. We will explore these and many more questions through short lectures or interviews with Leakey Foundation scientists, followed by Q&A with you, the viewing audience. 

Take a break from your day and feed your brain with The Leakey Foundation.

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The Leakey Foundation Stands Against Racism

Black lives matter. Oppressive racist systems profoundly harm Black people. The Leakey Foundation stands in solidarity with those who seek to end the pain of systemic racism. 

As a funding organization, we are committed to providing financial resources for underrepresented scholars. As an educational organization, we vow to speak out against racism and to amplify marginalized voices. 

The Leakey Foundation is listening, and we want to do more. We invite you to share your ideas as to how we can help advance the movement towards a just and equitable world.

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