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Human Origins Program Team

photo of the extended Smithsonian's Human Origins Program team in Kenya


Paleoanthropology is inherently interdisciplinary, with scientists specializing in a wide variety of research topics.

Meet the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program scientific team, and learn about the research projects and other activities that we're involved in.

Portrait of paleoanthropologist Rick Potts.

Rick Potts

Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts is the director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.

Portrait of Jennifer Clark

Jennifer Clark

Jenny's official title is Museum Specialist, but she’s really a generalist; she does lab management, administration, logistics, photography, illustration, and research.

Portrait of Briana Pobiner holding a fossil skull near her face.

Briana Pobiner

Briana's research centers on the evolution of human meat-eating, but has included topics as diverse as cannibalism in the Cook Islands and chimpanzee carnivory.

Portrait of paleoanthropologist Matt Tocheri.

Matt Tocheri

Matt’s main research interests surround the evolutionary history and functional morphology of the human and great ape family, the Hominidae.

Portrait of Zelalem Assefa.

Zelalem Assefa

Zelalem’s research interest include the later prehistory of the horn of Africa and the applications of geospatial information sciences in archaeological investigations.

Portrait of Anna K. ("Kay") Behrensmeyer.

Anna K. ("Kay") Behrensmeyer

Kay is a Research Curator in the NMNH Department of Paleobiology, co-directs the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program, and studies geological context at Olorgesailie.

Portrait of Alison Brooks

Alison Brooks

Alison is a paleoanthropologist and Paleolithic archaeologist who has worked at numerous localities in Africa and in northern China.

Portrait of Bill Melson.

Bill Melson

Bill is a Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History within the Division of Petrology and Volcanology.

Portrait of Julio Mercader

Julio Mercader

Julio is an active fieldworker and has conducted survey and excavation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Mozambique.

Portrait of Michael Petraglia.

Michael Petraglia

Mike has conducted archaeological research in the Indian subcontinent, and more recently in the Arabian peninsula.


Christian Tryon

Christian's research explores the behavioral evolution of Middle and Later Pleistocene hominins and the origin of Homo sapiens.

Portrait of Bernard Wood.

Bernard Wood

Bernard is the Director of the George Washington University's Hominid Paleobiology Graduate program and of the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology.

Portrait of John Yellen.

John Yellen

John's research focuses on the processes which led to the emergence of behaviorally modern humans.

Portrait of E. Grace Veatch

E. Grace Veatch

Grace’s interests focus on the origins of modern human behavior, paleolithic archaeology, and the dispersal of early Homo.

Emily Goble

Emily Goble Early

Emily Goble Early's research focuses on mammalian shifts in taxonomy and abundance that correspond with known global climate change in the Pliocene.

Tom Plummer

Tom Plummer

Tom conducts archeological and paleontological fieldwork in Kenya focused on reconstructing the paleoenvironments and behavior of Plio-Pleistocene hominins.

photo of Hanneke Meijer

Hanneke J.M. Meijer

Hanneke's research focuses on the evolution, biogeography and extinction of insular birds, and their use as paleoecological proxies in hominin sites.

Habiba Chirchir standing in front of fossil casts collection holding a femur

Habiba Chirchir

Habiba Chirchir is a biological anthropologist. Her research focuses on the evolution of human and non-human primate bone density patterns.

Members of the Human Origins Program team describe what they do and how much they enjoy their work.