Carol Ward, PhD


Dr. Ward studies the evolution of apes and early hominins, focusing on the fossil record from East and South Africa, primarily Kenya. She co-leads the West Turkana Paleo Project, an NSF-funded paleontological fieldwork project in Kenya searching for fossil evidence of early hominins and their environments. She takes a mechanical approach to the interpretation of the postcranial skeleton, and uses these principles to reconstruct the behavior of extinct animals. Dr. Ward’s lab is collaborating on several projects that are developing novel non-landmarked based 3D analyses of continuous laser scan data to quantify shapes in damaged specimens and of complex surfaces, and to study comparative functional morphology in ways not previously possible. Ward also studies the evolution of the hominoid torso, combining CT scan data, and with more traditional analyses of pelvis, ribs, vertebrae sternum, clavicle and scapula to discern how torsos vary among anthropoids, how much integration there is among these elements. Dr. Ward uses this information to interpret the evolution of body shape and locomotion in ape and human evolution. She is also involved in collaborative work involving muscle physiology, finite element modelling and 3D morphometrics exploring the function and evolution of the early hominin mandible and the evolution of hominin diets.

Academic Information

Curator's Professor
P. 573-882-0858

Research Interests

  • Reconstructing ape and human evolution, particularly the evolution of body form, locomotor behavior, and diet.

Areas of Expertise

  • Ape and human evolution
  • Locomotor mechanics
  • Functional morphology
  • Vertebral morpholgy
  • Torso shape

Education & Training

Post-Graduate School

Ph.D. Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Awards & Honors

  • 2023: Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

In the News


  • 2015 Ward CV, Feibel CS, Hammond AS, Leakey LN, Moffett EA, Plavcan JM, Skinner MM, Spoor F & MG Leakey. Associated ilium and femur from Koobi Fora, Kenya, and postcranial diversity in early Homo. Journal of Human Evolution 81: 48-67.
  • 2014 Ward CV, Tocheri MW, Plavcan JM, Brown FH & Manthi FK. An Early Pleistocene third metacarpal from Kenya and the evolution of modern human-like hand morphology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111: 121-124.
  • 2013 Arnone JC, El-Gizawy AS, Crist BD, Della Rocca GJ & Ward CV. Computer-aided engineering approach for parametric investigation of locking plate systems. Journal of Medical Devices 7(2):021001-021001-8.
  • 2013 Ward CV, Plavcan JM & Manthi FK. New fossils of Australopithecus anamensis from Kanapoi, West Turkana, Kenya (2003-2008). Journal of Human Evolution 65: 501-524.
  • 2012 Ward CV, Kimbel WH, Johanson DC & Rak Y. New postcranial fossils attributed to Australopithecus afarensis from Hadar, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution 63: 1-51.
  • 2011 Ward CV, Kimbel WH & Johanson DC. Complete fourth metatarsal from Hadar, Ethiopia, and arches in the foot of Australopithecus afarensis. Science 331: 750-753.
  • 2010 Ward CV, Plavcan JM & Manthi FK. Anterior dental evolution in the Australopithecus anamensis-afarensis lineage. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 365: 3333-3344.