Dr. Neil Roach's research focuses on the evolution of human behavior and the physiological, social and ecological forces that shaped that behavior through time. He is particularly interested in the origin of our own genus, Homo, nearly two million years ago, and how shifts in behavior at that time enabled our ancestors to thrive across the globe. Studying this important transition from our earlier ancestors' chimpanzee-like form and lifeways to that of our own lineage is critical to understanding how we as a species and genus are unique, what drove our evolution and why we are the way we are today.
To answer these questions, Dr. Roach uses both experimental laboratory and field-based methods to study how major shifts in anatomy reflect changes in crucial behaviors. By studying both modern humans and living apes, Dr. Roach is able to understand how anatomical changes found in the fossil record affect the performance of evolutionarily important behaviors. He then uses that information to interpret the course of our own behavioral evolution.
Dr. Roach’s current laboratory research studies the biomechanical and performance underpinnings of behaviors such as throwing, tool making, spear use, and climbing. He also actively conducts fieldwork in the Turkana region of northwestern Kenya. Dr. Roach’s ongoing field research includes the description of new hominin remains, examining hominin social organization and land use using 1.5 million year old fossil footprints and studies of throwing and hunting in the Daasanach people.