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Graduate Student Hailay Reda wins Sasakawa Young Leaders Fund!

Grad Student Hailay Reda wins the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fund! Hailay will conduct his doctoral research aims to reconstruct the paleoecology of the Afar Region of Ethiopia, by analyzing Ceropithecids fossils from the Woranso-Mille site.

Several studies have suggested that Africa is the origin of humanity (Clarke, 1998; Brunet et al., 2005; Haile-Selassie et al., 2004; Senut et al., 2001; White et al., 2009). The eastern African region in general, and the Afar Region of northern Ethiopia in particular, has played a significant role in human origins research; the relatively continuous record from this region is critical to understand the complete history of our ancestors (Alemseged et al., 2019). A large sample of early human fossils were recovered from the Afar localities that range from 4 to 3million years, but only Australopithecus afarensiswas recognized for the last 50 years (Johanson et al., 1978; 1982; White et al., 1993; Kimbel et al., 1994; Kimbel and Delezene, 2009; Alemseged et al., 2005; Haile-Selassie et al., 2010). However, this assumption was changed due to the discovery of Australopithecus deyiremedaand an ape-like early human ancestor foot from the Woranso-Mille (Haile-Selassie et al., 2012, 2015). Thus, more than one early human species was present at Woranso-Mille, but not in other well-known, nearby and contemporary sites in the Afar Region, such as Hadar. This raises research questions about the ecology of Waranso-Mille and the habitat preferences of the two early human species (Australopithecus afarensis andAustralopithecus deyiremeda). To answer these questions, I will use the abundant monkey fossils from Woranso-Mille to help reconstruct these ancient environments. Three major objectives are, thus, framed to address the research questions. The first objective focuses on the description of fossil old world monkeys from the 3.5 to 3.3 Ma Woranso-Mille site in Ethiopia. The second focuses on the study of their diet to better reconstruct the habitats of Australopithecus afarensis and A. deyiremeda. I will use both the dental functional morphology and isotope methods to determine the diet of the identified taxa. Finally, I will compare the sites where these early human ancestors were found using the relative abundance of different monkey species and their dietary adaptations. The project is multidisciplinary in nature; as a result, many scholars from various institutions will participate in different ways. Further, graduate students from eastern African institutions will also participate in the process of data collection and specimen curation. Overall, the project aims to address specific scientific research questions, but at the same time it will play a significant role in creating regional and international connections.

Congratulations Hailay!

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