The Premier Lecture
Louise Leakey, PhD
Secrets in the Sand: Revelations Into How We Became Humans
October 2 | 7PM | Wright Auditorium
Louise Leakey is the third generation of her family to dig for humanity's past in East Africa. In 2001, Leakey and her mother, Meave, found a previously unknown hominid, the 3.5-million-year-old Kenyanthropus platyops, at Lake Turkana — the same region where her father, Richard, discovered the "Turkana Boy" fossil, and near Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, where her grandparents, Louise and Mary Leakey, discovered the bones of Homo habilis.
Leakey completed her Ph.D. at London University. She has a position as a research assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University, serves as the director of Public Education and Outreach at the Turkana Basin Institute, and is a National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence. In addition to her long-term field research projects in Kenya's Turkana Basin, Leakey is helping to develop the Turkana Basin Institute, a major multi-disciplinary scientific research center best known for its human origins research. Leakey is currently working to transform the Koobi Fora Research Camp into a year-round research station on the shores of Lake Turkana.
Like her parents, Richard and Meave Leakey, and her grandparents, the pre-eminent Louis and Mary Leakey, Louise focuses her study on the evolution of early human ancestors. Particularly interesting to her is the period between 2 million years ago and 1.5 million years ago. In August 2007 Louise and Meave, both National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, dug up new H. habilis bones that have contributed to a rewriting of humanity's evolutionary timeline. The Leakeys' find suggests that different species of pre-humans actually lived side by side at the same time for almost half a million years.
Through a rigorous process of searching, excavation, paleoecological and geological analysis, and a little bit of paleoanthropological intuition, Louise, along with Meave, has precisely pinpointed regions within the 1200 square kilometer area of East Turkana that will most likely produce the answers to questions raised about this critical period in human evolution.