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Human Origins Program Team

Human Origins Team group photo 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 founded and currently directs the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and is 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 photo of Dr. Briana Pobiner

Briana Pobiner

Briana's paleoanthropological research centers on the evolution of human diets, but has included topics as diverse as human cannibalism and chimpanzee carnivory.

Matt Tocheri

Matt’s research focuses on the evolution and functional morphology of the human/great ape family, especially Homo floresiensis.

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 photo of Anna K. ("Kay") Behrensmeyer holding a fossil bone

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.

photo of Micheal Petraglia

Michael Petraglia

Mike conducts archaeological research in the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian peninsula.


Christian Tryon

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

Photo of Bernard Wood

Bernard Wood

Bernard Wood is the Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Human 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 interest focuses on the evolution of the hominin diet and studies small mammal taphonomy at Liang Bua.

Photo of Emily Goble Early

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.

Photo of 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.

photo of Ray Bernor

Ray Bernor

Ray’s research is on Old World Neogene mammal faunas, biogeography and paleoecology with an interest in hominoid evolution as shaped by climate change.

Portrait of Bill Melson.

Bill Melson

Bill Melson was a geologist emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

photo of Rene Dommain

René Dommain

René Dommain studies biological, environmental and climate dynamics in ecosystems of the old world tropics and reconstructs their landscape history from sediment cores.

Ella Beaudoin

Ella is a Paleolithic archaeologist whose interests span from cultural adaption and resistance to colonialism to early hominin cultural evolution and landscape use.

photo of Kendra Chritz holding a large mammal jaw

Kendra Chritz

Kendra is a (paleo)ecologist and geochemist who studies human-environment interactions and environmental change from the past to the present.

photo of Jessica Moerman

Jessica Moerman

Jessica Moerman is a paleoclimatologist. Her research focuses on how climate changed in the past, specifically rainfall in tropical regions.

Joe Gingerich wearing hat in Kenya.

Joseph A.M. Gingerich

Joe is an archaeologist specializing in hunter-gatherers, stone tools, and spatial analysis.

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