Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences Experts

Anna Katherine Kay Behrensmeyer

Taphonomist and Paleoecologist
National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)
United States of America


She is Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology in the NMNH Department of Paleobiology and co-director of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program. She is an associate of the Human Origins Program and has collaborated for many years with Rick Potts and other colleagues at Olorgesailie, where she has been leading research on the geological context since 1986. She works at the interfaces between the recent and the ancient and between the disciplines of anthropology, geology, paleobiology, evolutionary biology, and ecology. She is known for her pioneering research in taphonomy, the study of how organic remains become fossilized and biases that result from this process. Much of her career has involved paleontological and geological field research on the ecological context of human evolution in the later Cenozoic of East Africa. Currently, she is working on human origins-related projects in Kenya - the Olorgesailie Basin and East Turkana - as well as continuing her 40+-year study of modern taphonomy in Amboseli National Park. Other projects include contributions to a book on the Miocene Siwalik sequence of Pakistan, taphonomic analysis of the A.L.333 “First Family” site in Ethiopia, and a project on early mammal taphonomy and ecology in Arizona (Upper Triassic – Lower Jurassic). She also is building a taphonomic reference collection of fossil and modern bones at the National Museum of Natural History. She was elected to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and received the R. C. Moore Medal for excellence in Paleontology from the Society for Sedimentary Geology in 2016. She has been involved in efforts to promote women in science, including The Bearded Lady and Trowel Blazers.      

Research Interest

Watching animals disintegrate and fossilize 

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