PhD student Million Mengesha and Professor Naomi Levin spent two weeks in January doing fieldwork in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. They were working at the site of Hadar which is famous for its abundance of well-preserved fossils of the hominin Australopithecus afarensis, including the partial skeleton "Lucy". Hadar has been a focus of study since the 1970s but the intensity of research there has waned in the past 20 years.

Million and Naomi are part of a newly revived research effort at Hadar to compare the environmental context of the Hadar hominins to the environments at Woranso-Mille, a site 30 kilometers away where multiple species of hominins have been found including A. afarensis. The team is working to understand if there are environmental explanations for why there is hominin diversity at Woranso-Mille but not at Hadar 3.5-3.2 Ma. After fieldwork at Hadar, Million stayed in Ethiopia for more fieldwork at Woranso-Mille and returned to Ann Arbor in mid-March.

If you’re interested in learning more about this research, check out this article and podcast in a recent cover story from Science magazine. It is part of commemorating the 50th anniversary of finding the Lucy fossils. The last portion of the story highlights active work on understanding the environmental context of Lucy's species. Although they're not named, this is the project that Million and Naomi are working on.