Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Introducing our Spring 2021 Grantees

As a science funding organization dedicated to human origins research, we invest in individuals who seek to answer big questions about what makes us human. These scientists embody our mission of increasing scientific knowledge and public understanding of human evolution, behavior, and survival.

We are pleased to announce the 24 recipients of our spring 2021 Leakey Foundation Research Grants. Their diverse research projects include studies of resource use by early human ancestors, the impacts of early life adversity on baboons, the origins of primate pair-bonding, investigations of ancient climates and diets, as well as several new hominin fossil excavations.

Will Aguado preparing samples of orangutan foods for analysis of their nutritional content at the Tuanan Research Station in Indonesia.

William Aguado, Rutgers University: Interactions of plant secondary metabolites, nutrients, and physiology in orangutans

Rachel Bell at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve in Southwest Madagascar, where she collects microbiome samples from Verreaux’s sifaka, ring-tailed lemurs, and reddish-gray mouse lemurs. Photo: Rich Lawler

Rachel Bell, University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Impacts of anthropogenic disturbance on lemur microbiota in southwest Madagascar

Christian Capelli at Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique Photo Credit: Maria Joana Ferreira da Silva

Cristian Capelli, Università di Parma: The Y chromosome evolutionary history of the genus Papio

Reed Coil investigating a large humerus found in an exposed profile near the village of Aleksandrovka in East Kazakhstan.

Reed Coil, Nazarbayev University: Neanderthal and modern human spatial behavior in the Southern Caucasus

Inez Derkx, Cecilia Padilla Iglesias, University of Zurich: Socioecology of hunter-gatherer social structure and implications for cumulative culture

Elham Ghasidian in the field.

Elham Ghasidian, Neanderthal Museum Southern Caspian Corridor: A biogeographical hominin expansion route

Elliot Greiner in camp in the Baringo Basin, Kenya. Photo: Daniel Chupik

Elliot Greiner, University of Michigan: Mammalian paleoecology of the Tugen Hills succession, Baringo Basin, Kenya

Ivo Jacobs investigates the evolution of cognition in various species, such as ravens kept at the Lund University Corvid Cognition Station in southern Sweden. His research project will explore how Japanese macaques respond to and benefit from fire.

Ivo Jacobs, Lund University: The origins of hominin fire use: Japanese macaques as living models

Axelle Kamanzi Shimwataken collecting behavioral data from mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Photo: Veronica Vecellio, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Axelle Kamanzi Shimwa, The George Washington University: Variation in acquisition of dietary independence in Virunga mountain gorillas

Kieran McNulty examines a fossil on Rusinga Island, Kenya.

Kieran McNulty, University of Minnesota: New excavations at Meswa Bridge, Kenya

Rafael Mora at Cova Gran before starting to dig. Safety measures are extreme and helmet is absolutely necessary to avoid falling stones from the shelter.

Rafael Mora, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: Paleoanthropological, paleodemographic, paleogenomic, and cultural foundations from the Late Upper Paleolithic in the Southeastern Pre-Pyrenees

Abay Namen conducting test excavations to find traces of Pleistocene human
occupation at the Qyzyljartas cave in Turkestan region, Kazakhstan

Abay Namen, University of Tübingen: Lithic technology and raw material variability in the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor of Kazakhstan

Agazi Negash in the field, collecting obsidian samples from the Dofen volcanic center in the northern
sector of the Main Ethiopian Rift, Ethiopia. Photo: Mulugeta Alene

Agazi Negash, Addis Ababa University: The emergence of modern human behavior: An obsidian geochemical perspective

Stephanie Poindexter in the field.
Stephanie Poindexter recording morphometric data in Indonesia while studying slow lorises. Photo: Sharon Williams

Stephanie Poindexter, State University of New York at Buffalo: Re-evaluating the origins of primate pair-living through movement synchrony.

Zeljko Rezek analyzing lithics in the field during the excavations of Ain Difla rockshelter in Wadi Hasa, Jordan, 2019.

Zeljko Rezek, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology: Human use of the Saharan Nile landscape in the MSA

Archaeologist Mohamed Sahnouni at the Hominin site of Tighennif (western Algeria) pointing to
a biface being unearthed by graduate student Yasmine Younsi. © M. Sahnouni.

Mohamed Sahnouni, Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana: Continuation of new investigations at the Hominin site of Tighennif (formerly Ternifine), Algeria: Study of Homo erectus behavior and adaptation

Chalachew Seyoum in the Omo Shungura sediments looking for remains of our ancestors.
Photo: Wegenu Amerga

Chalachew Seyoum, University of Missouri: Preliminary Paleoanthropological expedition in the Kibish Formation, southern Ethiopia

Marcelo Tejedor searching for the southernmost fossil primates of early Miocene age in Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina.


Marcelo Tejedor, Instituto Patagónico de Geología y Paleontología (CCT CONICET-CENPAT): Dietary reconstruction of the Miocene primates from Patagonia using dental microwear and stable isotope analyses

Kristen Tuosto, George Washington University: Skeletal impacts of early life adversity in Amboseli baboons

Sarie Van Belle (left) and long-term research assistant, Elsa Barrios, at Palenque National Park, Mexico where they study black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra).

Sarie Van Belle, University of Texas at Austin: Information transmission between groups: Vocal indicators of group-level resource-holding potential and motivation in black howlers

Elizabeth Velliky examining collected ochre samples from the Bokkeveld shale deposits along the southern Cape of South Africa.

Elizabeth Velliky, University of Bergen: Reconstructing past ochre-scapes in South Africa (ROSA)

Rachel Voyt, University of Texas at Austin: Female reproductive variation in a wild, cooperatively breeding callitrichine primate

Kira Westaway emerging from the fossil chamber in Lower Pubu cave, near Chongzuo, Guangxi ZAR southern China. Photo: Cui

Kira Westaway, Macquarie University: Unearthing giants; post-cranial evidence of Gigantopithecus blacki in southern China

Ismail Zianui collecting modern plants in the Bni Snassen massif, North-eastern Morocco.

Ismail Ziani, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Plant use by the early Homo sapiens in North Africa



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