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Lecturer in Primatology announced

last modified Jul 01, 2019 10:51 AM
Dr Kathelijne Koops announced as new lecturer in the Department of Archaeology.


The Department of Archaeology is pleased to announce Dr Kathelijne Koops as the new lecturer in Primatology. 

Dr Kathelijne Koops studied Biology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands before attending the University of Cambridge, where she completed her PhD in Biological Anthropology in 2011. Subsequently, she was a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College and a Post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge. In 2014 she took up a Post-doctoral research position in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Kathelijne’s research applies an interdisciplinary approach to investigating the evolution of tool use. Complex technology is a defining trait of our species. Our technological innovations have reshaped our planet and changed the impact of evolutionary forces upon our lives. Despite the enormous significance of human technology, the evolutionary origin of this complex use of tools is not well understood. By studying humans’ closest living relatives, the great apes, Dr Koops works to identify the processes driving the use of technology across ape species and, in turn, shed light on What makes us human?

Dr Koops has studied chimpanzees at her research site in the Nimba Mountains in Guinea (West Africa) since 2003. In addition to investigating chimpanzee tool use, she works on topics including dietary adaptations, sociality, habitat use, population genetics, and conservation strategies in Nimba. During her Post-doctoral research, Dr Koops used a comparative approach to investigate the drivers of tool use in the two species of apes most closely related to humans, the (tool-using) chimpanzee and the (non tool-using) bonobo. By comparing the material cultures of these two ape species she discovered that the intrinsic predisposition to interact with objects was critical in explaining the species difference in tool use. This research paved the way for her current project comparing tool use across all the African apes and human hunter-gatherers.

Kathelijne says, “I am absolutely delighted to take up the University Lectureship in Primatology. This truly is a dream come true. I very much look forward to joining the diverse community of world-class researchers in the Department of Archaeology. This Lectureship provides a unique opportunity to engage and collaborate with colleagues and students from a wide range of backgrounds, which will undoubtedly lead to exciting scientific breakthroughs”. She adds, “I am extremely grateful to all the people who have supported me along the way. I owe many thanks to my family, friends, mentors, colleagues, students and field assistants. I am thrilled to return to Cambridge and play my part in supporting the next generation of aspiring academics”.

Dr Koops is currently launching the Comparative Human and Ape Technology (CHAT) Project, which will investigate the influence of environmental, social and cognitive factors on tool use in African apes and humans. This project will compare chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and hunter-gatherers all living in the Congo Basin forest. By investigating the drivers of tool use in African apes and humans, this work will shed new light on the evolutionary origins of human technology.

Dr Koops will take up the lectureship from January 2020. 

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