Fourth-generation Kenyan, Louise Leakey has upheld the Leakey family legacy in the field of Paleoanthropology through continuing research in the Turkana Basin of northern Kenya. Daughter of renowned palaeoanthropologists Meave and Richard Leakey, Louise first set foot in the region at age six weeks. Since then, she has spent considerable time on numerous field expeditions, and today she co-directs the Koobi Fora Research Project with her mother, Dr. Meave Leakey.
Dr. Leakey is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Stony Brook in New York, and is also the director of education and outreach of the Turkana Basin Institute, a major centre for human origins research that also runs field programs for students from 2 research stations in northern Kenya. Louise is a Ph.D. graduate of London University, where her research focused on the influence of climate change 3.5 to 1.5 million years ago in the fossil deposits of the Turkana Basin.
Some of her teams recent discoveries were announced in the journal Nature in August of 2012 and confirmed the presence of several species of early hominid in East Africa around 2 million years ago. Numerous discoveries made by her team at Lake Turkana over the years have led to a more detailed understanding of human origins.
In addition to the long-term field studies in the Turkana Basin, Dr. Leakey has worked closely with the local communities to increase funding for local schools and medical centres. She has also spent considerable time working alongside the Sibiloi National Park authorities to ensure the protection of some of the richest fossil sites within the Park boundaries. This has included flying aerial surveys to monitor and control livestock encroachment that continues to threaten this World Heritage Site.
Now Louise is using social media and the website africanfossils.org to engage a new generation of palaeontologists. A virtual laboratory showcases digital replicas of some of the most significant fossils providing an opportunity to explore certain finds in more detail and the possibility to download, print out your own 3D models and build your own collection.
Dr. Leakey is an alumnus of the Young Global Leaders in recognition of the importance of both her scientific contributions and community efforts. She sits on the advising board of the Centre for Communicating Science and on the advising board of the Sea Shepherd.
Dr. Leakey lives in Kenya with her husband and their two daughters who join her at Lake Turkana during field expeditions each year. She is also a pilot, photographer and a conservationist, but among her other pursuits she also manages the Leakey family vineyard where, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, she produces one of East Africa’s finest Pinot Noirs.