The list of contributors will continue to be updated as the series progresses.
Researchers, writers, media figures
Prof Nicole Boivin
Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany
Nicole Boivin’s research is cross-disciplinary, exploring the ways that humans have adapted to and reshaped the planet over thousands of years. She is committed to bringing information about the past to bear on contemporary challenges, and her Department’s research explores how archaeological data can inform present-day issues ranging from climate change and the Anthropocene to globalization, food security and migration. Since June 2020, Professor Boivin is spearheading the reorientation of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
Prof Richard Wrangham
Ruth Moore Research Professor of Biological Anthropology in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University
Richard Wrangham is a Research Professor at Harvard University, where he taught from 1989 to 2020. His major interests are chimpanzee and human evolutionary ecology, the evolutionary dynamics of violence and self-domestication, and ape conservation. Since 1987 he has studied wild chimpanzee behavior in Kibale National Park, Uganda. His latest book is The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution (2019).
Dr Yoshi Maezumi
Marie Curie Fellow and National Geographic Explore, The University of Amsterdam
Dr Yoshi Maezumi is a Marie Curie Fellow and National Geographic Explorer specializing in past human-environment interactions. Her research integrates cross-disciplinary perspectives from palaeoecology, archaeology, archaeobotany, and palaeoclimatology to examine the legacy of past human land use and fire management on modern ecosystems in the Amazon and Caribbean.
Prof Greger Larson
Director Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network, University of Oxford, UK
Greger Larson’s research interests include evolutionary genomics, ancient DNA, domestication, human & animal dispersal, and phylogenetics.
Dr Robert N. Spengler
Director of the Paleoethnobotany Laboratories, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany
Dr Spengler was also a research fellow in Berlin, Germany, as a Volkswagen and Mellon Foundations Postdoctoral Fellow jointly appointed at the German Institute of Archaeology (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, DAI), in the Eurasia Department and Freie Universität, Berlin.
Environmental writer and an Institute Fellow at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Emma Marris has written for many magazines and newspapers, including National Geographic, Wired, the New York Times, Nature and Outside. She has a Master’s in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University. In 2011, she published her first book, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. In 2016, she gave at TED talk about seeing the hidden nature that surrounds us, which has been watched over a million times. She writes about nature, people, food, language, books and film. Her goal is to find and tell stories that help us understand the past; take meaningful action in the present; and move towards a greener, wilder, happier and more equal future.
Dr Patrick Roberts
Research Group Leader and Director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Patrick Roberts’ multidisciplinary research addresses the long-term relationship between humans and tropical forest environments. Although often stereotyped as being ‘barriers’ to past human occupation, Patrick’s research seeks to use growing palaeoecological, archaeological, and historical evidence for innovative approaches to crop cultivation, landscape management, and urban dwelling across the tropics to inform the planning of more sustainable human futures in tropical forests in the 21st century. He is a National Geographic Explorer and the holder of a prestigious ERC Starter Grant ‘PANTROPOCENE’. He is the author of the book ‘Tropical Forests in Human Prehistory, History, and Modernity’ and has been part of UNESCO panels exploring issues of sustainability in tropical forest environments today.
Prof Kevin N. Laland
School of Biology, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
After completing his PhD at University College London, Kevin held a Human Frontier Science Programme fellowship at UC Berkeley, followed by BBSRC and Royal Society University Research fellowships at the University of Cambridge, before moving to St Andrews in 2002. He has published over 230 scientific articles and 13 books on a wide range of topics related to animal behaviour and evolution, particularly social learning, cultural evolution and niche construction. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Society of Biology, and the recipient of both an ERC Advanced Grant and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.
Assoc Prof Jacquelyn Gill
Associate Professor of Paleoecology & Plant Ecology, School of Biology and Ecology and Climate Change Institute, The University of Maine, USA
Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist and Assistant Professor of climate science at the University of Maine. She has worked on such as the relationship between megafauna and vegetation in the Pleistocene, and the sediment cores of Jamaica. Gill is also a science communicator on climate change.
Assoc Prof Laura Weyrich
Associate Professor of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, USA
Dr. Laura Weyrich has a wide range of research interests, looking at microbiome adaptation and evolution in various contexts.
Prof María Martinón-Torres
Director, Director, National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain
Prof María Martinón-Torres has research interests in hominin palaeobiology, palaeopathology and the evolutionary scenario of first Europeans. She has lead and participated in several international projects related to the study of the hominin dental evidence such as Dmanisi (Georgia) and China, and has published more than 70 books, book chapters and scientific articles.
Prof Jens-Christian Svenning
Professor of Ecology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Jens-Christian Svenning is a macroecologist and biogeographer, with strong interest in plants, animals and people across the world. Alongside basic curiosity about nature, Jens-Christian Svenning is highly motivated to contribute to help overcome the climate and biodiversity crises and promote sustainable societal development. His research includes strong foci on fundamental drivers of biodiversity, climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, and human-nature interactions from the past to the future, with strong interest in fundamental issues such as disequilibrium dynamics and top-down trophic effects. Key applied research foci include predictive modelling, the application of informatics and space-borne and other remote sensing technology to ecological and sustainability research, human dependence on and benefits from nature, and rewilding as a promising approach to ecosystem restoration.
Prof Kate Jones
Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity, University College London, UK; Director of the Nature-Smart Centre in the Institute of Future Living
Kate Jones is Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London and Director of the Nature-Smart Centre in the Institute of Future Living. Kate has held appointments at the University of Cambridge, Columbia University, Imperial College London, and is an honorary fellow at the Zoological Society of London. Her research investigates the interface of ecological and human health, using statistical and mathematical modelling to understand the impact of global land use and climate change on ecological and human systems, with a particular focus on emerging infectious diseases.
Assoc Prof Susana Carvalho
Associate Professor in Palaeoanthropology, Fellow of St Hugh’s College, The University of Oxford, UK
Dr Susana Carvalho is Associate Professor in Palaeoanthropology at the University of Oxford and is one of the main founders of the field of Primate Archaeology. She has been studying stone tool use by wild chimpanzees in Bossou, Guinea, West Africa, since 2006, and carrying archaeological research in the Koobi Fora area, Kenya, East Africa since 2008, with a current focus on the archaeology of the Pliocene. Since 2015 she has been the director of the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa, where an international team of 20 senior researchers is carrying an unprecedented interdisciplinary approach to understanding hominin origins and adaptations.
Prof Melinda Zeder
Associate Professor in Palaeoanthropology, Fellow of St Hugh’s College, The University of Oxford, UK
Melinda Zeder is a Senior Scientist and Curator of Old World Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Her research interests include the domestication plants and animals and the origins of agriculture. Her work has also focused on the social and environmental implications of early agriculture in the ancient Near East, and the development of specialized subsistence economies in early complex societies. She is also interested in the intersection of archaeology and genetics in documenting the domestication of plant and animal species. She has worked in Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Syria. She is the author of the book Feeding Cities: Specialized Animal Economy in the Ancient Near East and the lead editor of the 2006 book Documenting Domestication: New Genetic and Archaeological Paradigms.
Assoc Prof Michael Muthukrishna
Associate Professor of Economic Psychology at the London School of Economics
Michael Muthukrishna’s research focuses on answering three broad questions: (1) Why are humans so different to other animals? (2) What are the psychological and evolutionary processes that underlie culture and social change, and how is information transmitted, maintained, and modified? (3) How can the answers to these questions be used to tackle some of the challenges we face as a species?
Prof Agustín Fuentes
Department of Anthropology, Princeton University
Prof. Fuentes is an anthropologist whose research focuses on the biosocial, delving into the entanglement of biological systems with the social and cultural lives of humans, our ancestors, and a few of the other animals with whom humanity shares close relations. From chasing monkeys in jungles and cities, to exploring the lives of our evolutionary ancestors, to examining human health, behavior, and diversity across the globe, Professor Fuentes is interested in both the big questions and the small details of what makes humans and our close relations tick.
Science writer and journalist
Carl Zimmer is a popular science writer and columnist, who reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. Since 2013 he has been a columnist at the New York Times. He is a popular speaker at universities, medical schools, museums, and festivals, and he is also a frequent on radio programs such as Radiolab and This American Life. In 2016, Zimmer won the Stephen Jay Gould Prize, awarded annually by the Society for the Study of Evolution to recognize individuals whose sustained efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science.
Prof Andrea Manica
Professor of Evolutionary Ecology, University of Cambridge, UK
Prof Manica’s research focuses on understanding patterns of individual movement, with an emphasis on disentangling its proximate mechanisms (e.g. grouping behaviour, territoriality, migratory behaviour, etc.) and its ultimate causes (e.g. fitness benefits, selection in metapopulations). His research often involves the use mathematical and statistical modelling to make inferences from large ecological and genetic datasets, but also includes a number of field projects scattered around the world.
Dr Juliane Bräuer
Group Leader, Dog Lab, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Dr Juliane Bräuer is the Head of the Dog Lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History where she and her team of researchers study the cognitive aspects of dog domestication. In the past, she has studied all four great ape species, wolves, swine, and human children. Her research interests are dog domestication and comparative cognition. She conducts experimental studies to understand which cognitive skills different species have evolved in order to survive in their ecological niche. She is a regular speaker on the subject of animal cognition and has co-authored books like The Clever Dog: How You Can Understand Him and Smarter Than We Think: What Animals Are Capable Of. Her latest book Was Hunde Wissen (available in Engligh in late 2021) presents new results of the most important dog studies of the last twenty years.