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Painting by Paul Gaugin

Holly Dunsworth

Jill Doerner

Assistant Professor


Ph.D., Penn State University

Biological Anthropology

Holly Dunsworth C.V.


How did humans become humans? (The same for chimpanzees, dogs, etc.) And how does evolution work? These are the questions that drive my research and educational endeavors.

As part of an international team, I perform paleoanthropological fieldwork on Rusinga and Mfangano Islands in Western Kenya. Fossils from these sites represent plants and animals that lived in the early Miocene epoch (dating to about 20-18 million years ago), some of which, like the primate Proconsul, are good candidates for some of the earliest apes. Without the origin of apes, chimpanzees and humans would not have occurred. This work is not only geared toward finding more specimens of Proconsul and other primates, but we are also reconstructing the paleoenvironments in which these primates lived and evolved.

Living apes, not just fossils, also offer a glimpse of evolution. So along with another team of collaborators, I study energy use in apes and other mammals. Mammals process energy differently from one another and these differences may reflect different evolutionary selection pressures both internally within the organism and externally from the environment. Energetic use in humans is fairly well understood but it's only through comparison with other species that we can understand human energetics from an evolutionary perspective. Likewise, human data are necessary for understanding the energetic use of the chimpanzees and gorillas that we have studied. I am particularly interested in the energetics and metabolic parameters of pregnancy, fetal growth, infant growth, and lactation and how those determine the timing of birth in humans and other mammals.

I teach courses in biological anthropology which include Human Origins (APG 201), Sex and Reproduction in Our Species (APG 310), Human Variation (APG 350), and The Human Fossil Record (APG 300). Also, I regularly contribute to the science blog The Mermaid's Tale.

News & Announcements


Excellence in Research

Christine Zozula

Carlos Garcia-Quijano

Carlos Garcia-Quijano was selected to receive the 2013 Early Career Faculty Reseach Award in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.Kudos to him!

Department contacts

Department Chair
Leo Carroll,

Justice, Law & Society Minor Coordinator
Professor Leo Carroll,

Administrative Assistant
Theresa Nobile,