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Using fossil antelope teeth and remote sensing of contemporary African vegetation community types to reconstruct hominin habitats around the Omo-Turkana basin (Kenya) between 3.0-1.7 million years ago

   Faculty of Science & Technology

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  Dr S Reynolds  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This multidisciplinary project will examine fossil antelope teeth from the Omo-Turkana basin (Kenya), to reconstruct palaeovegetation conditions between 3.0-1.7 million years ago. This time period saw several different species of hominins (human ancestors) co-existing within the same lake basin and exploiting slightly different diets. A range of techniques (mesowear, microwear, stable isotope analysis), will be used to reconstruct vegetation cover conditions. Then, these data will be used to reconstruct the nature and extent of vegetation change in the past, as experienced by mixed feeding herbivores. This will enable us to consider the possible impact of vegetayioon change driven by climate changes on the evolution of our ancestors, especially the emergence of our genus, Homo, in this important region.

The project will then use Remote Sensing (under Professor Ross Hill) to search for a likely range of analogue habitats in satellite imagery archives of Africa. This part of the project will assess the structure of the vegetation, the feasibility of multiple hominin species co-existing within the same landscape, and identifying key analogue habitats, if any, in Africa today. This project will directly complement work underway in southern Africa aimed at assessing the role of climate and vegetation changes as catalysts for evolutionary changes observed in our ancestors, and will use collections housed in the National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi). Isotopic work to be done in collaboration with Phil Hopley (Birkbeck, London) and microwear by Gildas Merceron and Cecile Blondel (University of Poitiers, France).

This type of detailed and in-depth multiproxy study with complementary use of Remote Sensing for African contemporary habitats has never before been attempted, so these results are likely to produce novel results that will be publishable in high ranking scientific journals. These data can indicate the type of environmental transition that took place, the pacing (whether abrupt or gradual vegetation changes) and roughly when these environmental changes were most severe. This will provide an excellent environmental context within which to postulate how these changes may have affected the evolution of our ancestors. South Africa has recently produced exciting new fossil finds (Australopithecus sediba, Homo naledi) and the questions about the forces that shape evolutionary processes and what differentiates the habitats and diets of the numerous hominin ancestors in regions such as the Omo-Turkana basin are now more important than ever. How could so many hominin ancestors coexist in a single locality? What is currently missing is the palaeoenvironmental context experienced by hominins and what this will tell us about the nature and extent of vegetation changes experienced by our ancestors. This crucial environmental context is what is this project aims to provide and thus these results will likely attract strong interest from the evolutionary and palaeoanthropological community.

How to apply: Applications are made via our website using the Apply Online button below. If you have an enquiry about this project please contact us via the Email NOW button below, however your application will only be processed once you have submitted an application form as opposed to emailing your CV to us.

Candidates for funded PhD studentship must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 3 years.
All candidates must satisfy the University’s minimum doctoral entry criteria for studentships of an honours degree at Upper Second Class (2.1) and/or an appropriate Master’s degree. An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (or equivalent) is essential for candidates for whom English is not their first language.

In addition to satisfying basic entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful and timely completion.

Funding Notes

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £14,000 (unless otherwise specified) per annum, to cover their living expenses and have their fees waived for 36 months. In addition, research costs, including field work and conference attendance, will be met.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.
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