SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Anatomist and paleoanthropologist Dr. Carol Ward has received The Leakey Foundation’s 2022 Gordon P. Getty Award. This award recognizes scientists whose multidisciplinary research significantly advances science related to human origins, evolution, behavior, and survival.
Dr. Ward is Curators’ Professor of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the University of Missouri. She studies the evolution of apes and early hominins, focusing on the fossil record from East and South Africa, primarily Kenya. She co-leads the West Turkana Paleo Project, an ongoing paleontological fieldwork project in Kenya searching for fossil evidence of early hominins and their environments.
The Gordon P. Getty Award will support a research project entitled “3D Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Biomechanics of the Hand and Foot in African Hominoids.”
“Paleoanthropologists make all kinds of inferences from fossil bones, trying to understand how our ancestors’ bodies worked. Carol Ward’s project focuses on hands and feet, which are two of the most difficult parts of the skeleton to study,” said Dr. Dan Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, and part of the committee that chose this year’s Gordon P. Getty laureate. “Carol has devised an important way to use fossils to collect information on muscles and the forces they produce. She can use those data to test hypotheses about the relationship between form and function in humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and fossil hominins.”
“Carol Ward’s work is original and multidisciplinary,” said Sharal Camisa Smith, executive director of The Leakey Foundation. “She conducts field work, is involved in many collaborative research projects, is an expert on morphology, teaches anatomy, excels at public outreach, and works to diversify the science of human origins. This is a well-deserved recognition of Carol Ward’s many important contributions.”
“I am thrilled and honored to be named a Gordon Getty Award Laureate,” said Dr. Ward. “As with so many of my colleagues, The Leakey Foundation allowed me to start my research career many years ago, and without that first grant I would not be where I am today. Having been involved with the Foundation for so long, I never cease to be impressed with the creativity, quality, and importance of the proposals that are supported. I could not be more proud to have our project selected for the Getty Award.”
“My colleagues Dr. Casey Holliday, Dr. Kevin Middleton, and I are harnessing cutting-edge imaging technologies to explore the comparative biomechanics of hand and foot function in African apes and humans,” said Ward. “We will provide the first complete virtual 3D anatomical atlases of the hands and feet of a chimpanzee, gorilla, and human, down to even the internal architecture of muscles. Using these data, we will assess the functional capacity of grasping in these species to better understand the evolution of the human foot and hand, which are arguably two of the most distinctive aspects of what makes us human.”
Dr. Ward will give a Gordon P. Getty Laureate Lecture at the California Academy of Sciences in 2023.