(Sponheimer, Matthew James - 2012) -- BFA Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarly and Creative Work uri icon



  • Professor Sponheimer’s research focuses on the ecology of early human ancestors in Africa. He and his collaborators use isotope analysis of fossil remains to shed light on human evolution and on the ecology and diets of our ancestors. The results of this pioneering approach have appeared in prestigious journals, including Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Professor Sponheimer currently directs a multi-disciplinary project investigating the community paleoecology of Australopithecus africanus at Makapansgat Limeworks, South Africa, and co-directs a research group examining the neoecology of large mammals in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. He also co-directs two projects using heavy isotopes to study early hominin land use at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and the Sterkfontein Valley, South Africa.
    Professor Sponheimer’s research has helped increase our understanding of what ancient hominins ate. And studying the ancient hominin diet, he has said, will help us understand “how we became us.” One colleague remarked that Professor Sponheimer’s research production is both “unparalleled” and “having an immediate . . . and positive impact on the field of paleoanthropology.”

year awarded

  • 2012