Fellowship Program and Student Research

Koobi Fora Field School Fellowships
The Koobi Fora Field School Fellowship Program

Over the last three years we have developed a curriculum focused on student training that provides an opporttuntity for students to learn about the process of research by being a part of active research in the Koobi Fora region. This means our students are activley engaged in primary data collection. All students must be a part of an active research project and make meaningful contributions to our understanding of the geology, ecology, anthropology, or archaeology of this region. 


National Science Foundation International Research Experience for Students: In 2015 the Koobi Fora Research and Training Program began running a fellowship program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The intention of this program was to provide training and support for students interested in developing skills that they will be able to use in a career in STEM sciences. The fellowship program is focused on supporting students with excellent academic backgrounds so that they can use their experience on the Koobi Fora Field School to further explore aspects of our lineage's past. 


Support: The fellowship program supports students by paying for their expenses on the program as well as paying for their airfare to Kenya and provides students with stipends to support their experience during the field school. The fellowship program also supports a follow up program that allows students to interact with major researchers from around the U.S. to find out what it takes to turn their experience in Kenya into a successful graduate school experience.


Application: Students who want to be considered for the fellowship program must be U.S. citizens. Students must have all of their applications materials completed by the time of the selection dates (see home page for selection dates for each year).  In order for a student's application to be considered they must have all applications materials completed (letter of recommendation, statement, transcript, and supplementary application materials) completed by the time of the selection dates. 

Here we highlight some of the student research from our first year on the program.


Samantha Ascoli

Background

I am an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, dual majoring in Anthropology with a focus in Archaeology, and Earth and Planetary Science with a focus in Geology, and a minor in Museum Studies.

My Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School taught me vital archaeological, geological, ecological, and survival skills; it was hard, but some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Due to the individual project based curriculum of the field school, I was able to combine my interests of archaeology and geology to better understand hominin raw material selectivity at FwJj52. Samantha Ascoli was the recipient of the Cheryl L. Wase Memorial Fellowship awarded by the Society of American Archaeology in 2016.

Project Title

An Analysis of Raw Material Selection in Stone Tool Technology within the Turkana Basin, Kenya


Ella Beaudoin

Background

I am a junior at American University, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, studying archaeology.

My Koobi Fora experience

The KFFS was the best thing I have ever done. It showed me that this is what I want to do in life. Ella was awarded an NSF-REU Fellowship in 2015 to conduct research in South Africa.

Project Title

Evidence of early fire? Spatial patterning and stratigraphic anomalies at FxJj20Main-Extention-0


Maryse Biernat

Background

I'm an alumnus of Stockton University and have a bachelor's degree in Biology. I'm interested in paleontology and paleobiology, concentrating on mammals. 

Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School was a life changing experience where I not only learned more than I imagined, but also made life-long friends and professional connections. Working on a specific research project gave me the opportunity to take a project from start to finish all while studying something I was interested in and gaining field experience. Maryse has been working as an intern at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in their Human Origins Program. 

Project Title

Understanding landscape variability from stable carbon isotope ratios of paleosols and enamel: a case study from East Turkana, northern Kenya.


Chloe Daniel

Background

I am a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in Anthropology and Psychological and Brain Sciences. 

My Koobi Fora Experience

My first time out in the field was with KFFS, and I really enjoyed the opportunities that came with it. Between the ecology portion being at Mpala Ranch and being able to work on projects outside your own interests made it a diverse, educational and fun experience. Chloe was awarded a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Fellowship to conduct research in South Africa.

Project Title

Color Analysis of Fired and Unfired Basalt Artifacts


Kelly Fetchenhier

Background

I am currently a senior at Colorado State University. I am working towards a degree in zoology with a minor in biological anthropology.

My Koobi Fora Experience

At the Koobi Fora Field School, I was fortunate to work with Dr. Stephen Merritt analyzing zooarchaeological data gathered from a potential butchery site. I gained valuable hands-on field experience, learning how to excavate, identify fossil specimens, and communicate with fellow researchers. 

Project Title

Preliminary zooarchaeological and taphonomic analysis of FwJj70, a butchered bone surface assemblage from the Okote Member of Koobi Fora, Kenya


Sarah Himes

Background

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Texas State University in May of 2014, I have been actively seeking opportunities to expand my knowledge of paleoecological reconstruction, the effects of climate change on ancient landscapes, and those geological processes associated with characterizing Pleistocene-age sediments both spatially and temporally. I am now seeking admittance into a PhD program that will foster my evolving interests with utilizing paleoecological proxies such as ancient soil development, carbon isotope analysis, and nutrient cycling to better understand past landscape dynamics.

My Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School supplied me with the opportunity to explore my otherwise broad interests in paleoecology, while challenging me to both learn and employ new concepts in the field by constructing and executing my own research design. Despite some of the challenges associated with living in the deserts of Kenya, the learning experience I received as the result of this undertaking was priceless, and will follow me throughout my undertakings as an aspiring PhD candidate and beyond. Sarah has been working as research assistant at Texas State for the past year. 

Project Title

Landscape Stability & Paleoecology at East Turkana, Northern Kenya: A spatial and temporal analysis of paleosol gross morphology during the Upper Burgi, KBS, and Okote Members (2-1.4 Ma.)


Katherine Martinez

Background

I currently study Archaeology, with a minor in Anthropology, at Boston University. My interests are in palaeodiet reconstruction and human evolution, and I have training in zooarchaeology.

My Koobi Fora Experience

The KFFS has been a wonderful experience for me; the mentors have provided invaluable advice and numerous opportunities that have been instrumental to help me decide where I want to work, and how I can continue my interests beyond my summer study abroad and onto graduate school. 

Project Title

Preliminary Study of Ichthyofauna Remains from an Early Holocene Site [FxJj 108] in Koobi Fora, Kenya. 


Melissa Miller

Background

I have degrees in English and American Indian Studies from Northeastern State University (Tahlequah, Oklahoma), a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Tulsa, and am currently working on my doctorate at the University of Tulsa. My research focuses on lithic analysis and paleoanthropology.

My Koobi Fora Experience

 The field school curriculum allowed me to both tailor my experience towards the aspects of paleoanthropology in which I was already interested and to learn new skills and knowledge. It was a great opportunity to work on the ground in Africa at one of the most important locations in paleoanthropology. Melissa conducted research at the site of Wonderwerk in the year after her Koobi Fora Field School Experience. 

Project Title

The effects of water flow on surface deposits in the Okote of Koobi Fora


Jana Muschinski

Background

I studied Anthropology and Human Biology at Emory University as an undergraduate and am currently (2015-2016) completing an MPhil in Archaeological Science at the University of Cambridge. 

My Koobi Fora Experience

KFFS was my first time in the field and I am very thankful for the experience at large and especially for the great mentors I got to work with. It was a packed 6 weeks with many new experiences and lots of learning. Jana is graduating from Cambridge with a Master's in Archaeology in 2017.

Project title

Assessing the fracture patterns of thermally altered stone: Experimental evidence for distinct fracture patterns


Joel Torgeson

Background

I study biological anthropology as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota with a focus on morphometrics. I do competitive ballroom dancing and enjoy rock climbing in my spare time. 

My Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School and the IRES Fellowship have changed the way I see the world, modern and archaic. The fantastic instruction and research-oriented design have prepared me for work in a variety of contexts and projects. Joel conducted research at the site of Rusinga island in the summer after his KFFS IRES experience. 

Project Title

Chasing Phantom Hearths: Statistics, Lithics, and the Evidence for Fire at Koobi Fora.


Alex Velez

Background

I completed my undergraduate education at Lehman college, where I specialized in evolutionary pedal morphology and the evolution of bipedalism. I am currently pursuing my Master’s and PhD at Binghamton University, where I now specialize in hominin evolutionary cranial morphology, ecomorphology, virtual anthropology, and auditory reconstruction.

My Koobi Fora Experience

My time at Koobi Fora was invaluable, both for the experience in conducting scientific research and for all the amazing things I was able to see and learn. It wasn’t all easy, but it was really worth it and will definitely help in the future. Alex conducted research at the site of Atapuerca in the summer after his KFFS IRES experience. 

Project Title

Down by the River: A Paleoecological Study of Water Dependence in Koobi Fora


Julia Arenson 

 

Background

I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon in 2015, and now I’m a graduate student in Biological Anthropology at CUNY/NYCEP.  I’m interested in patterns of speciation and geographic variation in primate craniofacial morphology.  

My Koobi Fora Experience

I had a great time meeting students and faculty from outside my program.  It was terrific to get first-hand experience working and living in the field, and especially in an area famous for its amazing fossil discoveries.  

Project Title 

Primate abundance in the Koobi Fora Formation: A comparison of the Turkana Public Database and surface survey data

 


Lorena Benitez 

 

Background

I am a senior at Harvard College studying organismic and evolutionary biology with a secondary in archaeology.  I’m interested in mammalian evolution, ecology, and conservation.

Koobi Fora Experience

This field school gave me valuable skills for conducting field work, scientific writing, presenting, and project design, but also amazing friends and mentors who will help me further my research career.  

Project Title

The Implications of Bovid Abundance for Pleistocene Paleoenvironments in the Turkana Basin, Kenya


Meredith Carlson  

 

Background

I am currently a senior at Bryn Mawr College. I am working toward a degree in anthropology, with a focus in biological anthropology and archaeology.

My Koobi Fora Experience

My time in the field with KFFS was just about the best thing I could have done to forward my studies in paleoanthropology. The research-based program challenged me, helped me to focus my interests, and allowed me the unique opportunity to take a project from start to finish for the first time.

Project Title

An experimental and archaeological investigation of the role of edge angle in lithic artifact damage: Applications to the Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya


Elly Cordiner  

 

Background

I am currently a senior at Bryn Mawr College. I am working toward a degree in anthropology, with a focus in biological anthropology and archaeology.

My Koobi Fora Experience

My time in the field with KFFS was just about the best thing I could have done to forward my studies in paleoanthropology. The research-based program challenged me, helped me to focus my interests, and allowed me the unique opportunity to take a project from start to finish for the first time.

Project Title

An experimental and archaeological investigation of the role of edge angle in lithic artifact damage: Applications to the Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya


Alyssa Enny  

 

Background
I am an alumnus of Stockton University where I graduated with a BS in Biology. I am interested in studying vertebrate paleontology and paleoecology.

Koobi Fora Experience
Attending the Koobi Fora Field School was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.  I learned invaluable skills used for conducting field work, began and completed a personal research project, and made some amazing friendships along the way. KFFS allowed me to grow as a researcher and push myself outside of my comfort zone.

Project Title
Exploring the impact of collection strategies on interpretations of faunal abundance: a case study from the Koobi Fora Formation (Pleistocene, northern Kenya)


Courtney Jirsa  

Background

I am a current undergraduate at George Washington University, studying biological anthropology and biology with a minor in statistics.

My Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School is the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have ever done. The ability to partake in individual & collaborative research truly illuminated for me the many facets of paleoanthropology as the field I hope to be a part of for the rest of my life.

Project Title

Assessing Edge Damage in MSA Lithic Assemblages: Experimental Proxies for the Analysis of Use and Post-Depositional Damage


Catherine Llera

 

 

Background

 I am currently a senior at the University of Florida, dual majoring in Biology and Anthropology.

My Koobi Fora Experience

KFFS was an amazing opportunity. I learned many essential skills for my future career as an anthropologist, I got to meet some really great people, and I was able to see and experience one of the most beautiful places in this world. Attending this field school was one of the best decisions I have made in my life

Project Title

Subregion-scale heterogeneity of bovid abundance in the Koobi Fora Formation


Caroline McKinney

  

Background

I have a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in anthropology.

Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School helped me grow my interests and skills as a researcher. I was able to work and make connections with current and future members of the field. KFFS exposed me to a diverse set of skills and opportunities which will serve to make me a more comprehensive researcher. KFFS was one of the best and most enjoyable experiences of my life.

Project Title

Applications of Multispectral Imagery to the Archaeology of Human Origins 


Kara Peters

  

Background

I am currently (2016-2017) a junior at The College of William & Mary, and I'm majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Biology as well as Studio Art. I'm from Virginia just outside the D.C. area.

My Koobi Fora Experience

I would go back to Kenya in a heartbeat! I had an amazing time on the field school learning new things about myself and the world around me. Not only did I gain a lot of valuable academic knowledge, but I also gained life experiences that I'll never forget- ranging from swimming in Lake Turkana, to having a monkey climb on my shoulders, to witnessing the breath-taking equatorial night sky, to learning a new language from the local Dassanach children, and of course to making new friends. I even got to butcher an animal with stone tools the way our ancestors might have. Never before have I felt more connected to the natural world and our evolutionary history. 

Project Title

Experimental butchery: Behavioral and specimen fragmentary analysis


Kristen Tuosto

  

Background

I am an alumna from the University of California-Berkeley, with a bachelor degree in Anthropology focusing on skeletal biology.  

My Koobi Fora Experience

The Koobi Fora Field School was not like anything I was expecting, however, it was everything I wanted. The field school challenged me to learn and conduct research in areas I was unfamiliar with, such as stone tools, site formation, and ArcGIS. While the field school did not change my true passion for skeletal biology, it did make me a more well-rounded human paleobiologist who is now confident in discussing and contributing to the subject areas mentioned above. This experience has also provided me with new perspectives and analytical methods that I can apply to my own research in skeletal biology. 

Project Title

On the Other Side of the Gauss-Matuyama: Site Formation and Evidence of Stone Tools Older than 2.58 Ma

 

Michael Ziegler

  

Background

I'm an alumni of Georgia College and earned a B.S. degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Geology. Moreover, I enjoy harsh weather camping and scuba diving,. With an over-arching interest in Paleontology/Geology and the various proxies utilized within these multi-disciplinary fields, I found the Koobi Fora Field School to be an ideal program to culture and further refine my academic interest in my pursuit of graduate school. 

My Koobi Fora Experience

Conducting research in Kenya allowed hands-on experience working in the famed localities that have been instrumental in the Paleoanthropological field. For me, The Koobi Fora Field School was a prestigious academic experience that enabled me to gain field experience excavating archeological pits for fossils and lithic artifacts, digging geologic trenches to record stratigraphic sections, identifying faunal remains in the field, and carrying out a research project from initial inquiry to scientific report. During the field school, enduring personal and academic relationships were forged between the students, field school staff, and local peoples. 

Project Title

Site Formation Analysis of Locality GaJj17 in the Koobi Fora Formation, Northern Kenya