Skip to content

Research Grants

The Leakey Foundation is the leading nonprofit funder of research dedicated to understanding human origins. Each year, we award approximately $1,000,000 in grants and scholarships, advancing our mission to explore and explain our shared human story.

Leakey Foundation Research Grants support both PhD dissertation research and post-PhD research across multiple disciplines related to human origins, evolution, and behavior. We prioritize funding for the exploratory phases of promising new research projects. We particularly value innovative, multidisciplinary approaches that expand the boundaries of our current understanding. 

We welcome proposals from researchers at all stages of their careers, especially PhD candidates. If your research aligns with our mission and you have an innovative or multidisciplinary project, we encourage you to apply.

Information for Applicants

This program exclusively funds multidisciplinary research related to human origins, including dissertation research and exploratory studies.

The disciplines supported include archaeology, biological anthropology, paleoanthropology, primate behavioral ecology, genetics, geology, anatomy, morphology, paleobotany, and paleoclimatology.

Our current funding focus areas include:

  • Paleoanthropology of the Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene
  • Primates: Evolution, behavior, morphology, ecology, endocrinology, genetics, isotope studies
  • Modern hunter-gatherer groups

When to apply

  • January 10 for spring cycle
  • July 15 for fall cycle


  • Up to $20,000 for PhD candidates
  • Up to $30,000 for post-PhD researchers

Who can apply

  • Your research must be relevant to human origins and evolution.
  • Applications are open to advanced doctoral students or post-PhD researchers.
  • PhD students must be advanced to candidacy (all but dissertation).
  • There are no citizenship requirements. Applications are open to candidates from anywhere in the world. 
  • Applicants must be affiliated with an institution such as a university or museum. We do not give directly to individuals.
  • Resubmittals are welcome and encouraged.
  • If you have received a Leakey Foundation grant in the past, you must complete all reporting requirements before receiving a new one.

Eligible expenses

  • The grant can only be used for expenses directly related to your research and essential to the project such as travel, living expenses during fieldwork, supplies, and research expenses.
  • Aid is not offered for salary and/or fringe benefits of applicant or senior project personnel, child care, equipment, travel to meetings, institutional overhead, publication costs, or institutional support.

How to apply

  1. Download the instructions and materials packet.
  2. Read and follow all instructions.
  3. Submit your application online.

If you have questions about the application or the eligibility of your research after reading the instructions, please review the frequently asked questions below.

If your question is not answered there, email

Frequently Asked Questions

Explore frequently asked questions about Leakey Foundation grants.
Contact our Grants Department at grants at if your question is not answered below.

May I submit more than one proposal per granting cycle?

Investigators may only submit one proposal as a principal investigator (PI) per granting cycle. This policy does not apply to co-investigators. For example, you may be the PI on one proposal and a co-investigator on another.

What expenses can I include in my budget?

Our grants cover expenses directly related and essential to the project (i.e., travel, living expenses during fieldwork, supplies, research assistance, and other relevant expenditures). Aid is not offered for salary and/or fringe benefits of the applicant (or senior project personnel), tuition, non-project personnel, child care, equipment, travel to meetings, institutional overhead, publication costs, or institutional support.

Who is eligible to apply?
Advanced doctoral students and people who already hold PhDs. High school and undergraduate college students are NOT eligible. There are no citizenship restrictions.

Do I need to be a US citizen to apply?
No! Our grants are open to applicants from anywhere in the world.

How can I know my topic is eligible for funding?
Your topic must be relevant to human origins. Our current funding priorities include:

  • Paleoanthropology of the Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene
  • Primates: Evolution, behavior, morphology, ecology, endocrinology, genetics, isotope studies
  • Modern hunter-gatherer groups

If you are unsure, please write to us at grants at and provide a brief description of your project before you apply.

I won’t be a PhD Candidate until after the grant deadline. Can I still apply?
The foundation’s grants officer will determine your eligibility. Please email grants at to explain your status.

Does The Leakey Foundation offer research grants for undergraduate or masters students?
No, Leakey Foundation Research Grants are limited to applicants who either already hold a PhD or equivalent qualification in anthropology or a related discipline or are enrolled in a doctoral program with all degree requirements fulfilled other than the thesis/dissertation.

I received a previous award from The Leakey Foundation. Can I apply for another?
Yes, as long as you are fully compliant with the terms of your prior award.

If I am not affiliated with a school or research institution, may I apply for a grant?
Individuals must be affiliated with a school or research institution.

How much funding can I request?
As of May 2022, PhD candidates may apply for up to $20,000.
As of May 2022, post-doctoral applicants and senior scientists may apply for up to $30,000.

How much can my institution deduct for administrative costs?
Your institution may not deduct anything. Charges for overhead, administrative or indirect costs are not allowed.

Is funding available for publishing research results?
We do not currently have funding programs for dissertation writing or any other form of publication assistance.

What are the application deadlines and how long before I can expect a decision?
Research Grants have two application cycles each year, with deadlines falling on January 10th (Spring Cycle) and July 15th (Fall Cycle). Decisions for the Spring Cycle are announced in mid-May. Decisions for the Fall Cycle are announced in mid-December.

How do you select which grants to fund?
Grant proposals are generally selected for award based on but not limited to the following criteria: the scientific merit of the proposal, methods and feasibility, the budget, the qualifications of the investigators, the relevancy of the proposal to understanding human origins, the current applicant pool, and the funds available during a given year. The following is the standard process we follow for selecting grants to fund:

  1. Grant proposals are reviewed for completion and eligibility by The Leakey Foundation’s Grants Department.
  2. Proposals are then sent to The Leakey Foundation’s network of scientists with pertinent expertise for peer review.
  3. Next, proposals and peer reviews are evaluated by The Leakey Foundation’s Scientific Executive Committee (SEC).
  4. Our SEC then presents award recommendations to our Board of Trustees for approval.
  5. Once proposals are approved, applicants are notified, and peer review feedback is shared. 

You are a nonprofit organization, does that mean donors choose which projects to fund?
No. Although we depend on donations to fund our mission, decisions are made through a rigorous peer-review process. Donors and Leakey Foundation staff do not weigh in on the decisions.

How and when should I receive the decision about my proposal?
You will receive a notification via the email address included with your application. We send notifications in mid-May and mid-December. If you haven’t heard by June 1st (Spring Cycle) or December 20th (Fall Cycle), please contact us at grants at

What types of projects does The Leakey Foundation support?
The Leakey Foundation exclusively funds research into human origins, including paleoanthropology, genetics, primate behavior, and the behavioral ecology of contemporary hunter-gatherers. Proposals that are not relevant to human origins are generally not considered.

Are there any Leakey Foundation grant programs for research that is not directly relevant to human origins?
No. All applicants must explicitly demonstrate that the research is related to understanding human origins and evolution.

I [name], of [city, state ZIP], bequeath the sum of $[ ] or [ ] percent of my estate to L.S.B. Leakey Foundation for Research Related to Man’s Origins, Behavior & Survival, (dba The Leakey Foundation), a nonprofit organization with a business address of 1003B O’Reilly Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129 and a tax identification number 95-2536475 for its unrestricted use and purpose.

If you have questions, please contact Sharal Camisa Smith sharal at 

This will close in 0 seconds