Biology faculty member appointed to national committee, receives grant for human fossil research

Dr. Habiba Chirchir, an assistant professor of biology in Marshall’s College of Science, has been selected by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to serve on the Science Policy Committee for a two-year term, beginning July 1, and has recently received a competitive research grant from the Leakey Foundation.

Chirchir will be serving as the American Association for Anatomy’s early career representative on the federation’s Science Policy Committee. She will serve on science policy subcommittees, representing the views of early career scientists to FASEB’s leadership and creating continuity between current and future generations of scientists. She also will serve on subcommittees that evaluate research quality.

Along with teaching biology courses such as human anatomy, human biology, and evolution, Chirchir holds a joint appointment as a research associate at the Natural History Museum, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.

She earned her Ph.D. in human paleobiology from George Washington University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian, where she was named the Smithsonian Secretary’s Distinguished Research Awardee for 2014. Here at Marshall, Chirchir is a 2019 recipient of the Junior Faculty Distinguished Artists and Scholars Award.

Chirchir’s research seeks to understand how behavior influences skeletal anatomy and behavior in living and fossil mammals include humans.

She also has recently received a highly competitive grant in the amount of $20,615 from the Leakey Foundation for a study titled "Trabecular bone morphology, gracilization and locomotion in Koobi Fora hominins."  The research will look at human fossil ancestors spanning the past 2.5 million years in East Africa. The bulk of data collection, which involves high resolution microCT imaging, will be conducted in Kenya and South Africa. The research will involve recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students here at Marshall in biological sciences and institutions in Kenya to assist with data collection and to develop capstone and thesis projects.

"The information from the fossils will help us learn whether our early human ancestors walked upright on the ground or climbed in trees," Chirchir said. "Students recruited to participate in the project will learn imaging analysis, and use the data for their thesis and capstone projects."

The Leakey Foundation supports research that seeks to understand human origins and evolution.

For more information about the biological sciences program at Marshall University, visit www.marshall.edu/biology.