Meet our team
Jesús Rodríguez
Project Leader
Jesús Rodríguez is the curator of palaeontological collections and leader of the Palaeocology Group at the National Center of Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH) at Burgos (Spain). He is a specialist in mammalian palaeoecology although he also participated in several studies on the macroecology of recent mammals. He finished his dissertation on the ecological structure of the Pleistocene mammalian communities from the Atapuerca sites in 1998. During his post- doc period he continued his research on the palaeoecology of Pleistocene mammalian communities and expanded his interest towards the macroecological analyses of recent mammalian communities in collaboration with specialists on the biogeography of recent organism. This collaboration also led to the application of niche modeling approaches to study the extinction of some large mammal species using palaeontological data. Currently, his main research interest focuses on the trophic dynamics of Pleistocene European mammalian communities and intraguild competition as factors conditioning hominin survival opportunities.
Ana Mateos
Project Leader
Ana Mateos is research leader of the Palaeophysiology and Human Ecology Group at CENIEH (Burgos, Spain). She is an archaeologist with a wide expertise on human ecology, faunal remains and archaeozoology. After her PhD in Prehistory at University of Salamanca in 2005, she finished her Master Degree in Primatology at University of Barcelona in 2010. Her current research focuses on studying the biology and ecology of humans and other primates in the framework of Evolutionary Developmental Palaeoanthropology and Behavioural Ecology. During the last years, she focuses on features of human palaeophysiology essential for human survival during the Pleistocene, specially through an experimental bioenergetic approach. She has developed new approaches to study key life history events in hominins like growth and development, or reproduction and their metabolic costs. In the last years, her active promotion of modeling in archaeological and palaeontological studies led to frequent collaborations on human throphic ecodynamics with the CENIEH Palaeoecology Group leaded by Dr. J. Rodríguez.
Maria Rita Palombo
Project Leader
Maria Rita Palombo if Professor in Palaeontology and Palaeoecology and director of the Museum of Palaeontology at Sapienza University of Rome (Italy). Her research mainly focuses on biochronology, palaeobiogeography, palaeoecology and evolution of Cenozoic mammals (mainly from Eurasia), as well as origin and evolutionary patterns of insular mammals, combining empirical and theoretical approaches across a broad range of scales. Recent scientific activity dealing with palaeoecological studies has the twofold aim of investigating the actual impact of climate changes on ecosystems dynamics and evolution, and scrutinizing whether changes over time in the structure of mammalian palaeocommunities were more greatly influenced by biotic interactions or by disturbances to the physical environment faunal. Particular attention is paid to factors promoting mammal dispersals (including hominins) across and between continents and functional diversity trends shown by mammalian palaeocommunity during the Quaternary evolution. Areas of interest include the application of the evolutionary theory to studies of endemic fossil mammals and the generality of ecomorphological rules.
Christine Hertler
Project Leader
Christine Hertler is palaeobiologist in the research center “The role of culture in early expansions of humans (ROCEEH)” funded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Christine Hertler is based at the Senckenberg Research Institute (Frankfurt am Main, Germany). In her studies she focuses on the palaeoecology of Pleistocene macromammals including hominins. Christine Hertler completed her phD in biology with a thesis on morphological methods in evolution theory in 2000. In her thesis she focused on application and development of strict methodologies in conceptual modelling. She tested newly developed methods and procedures in an interdisciplinary research group which studied links between population dynamics and resource supply of both, present and prehistoric human populations. Since 2008 she is reconstructing palaeoenvironments of Pleistocene hominins in Africa and Eurasia and studies their palaeoecology.
Donatella Magri
Donatella Magri is Professor of Palaeobotany and Palynology at Sapienza University of Rome. She co-operates with geologists, palaeontologists, archaeologists and geneticists in reconstructing the history of vegetation and climate in Europe during the Quaternary. Her research is mainly devoted to: a) assessing the succession of glacial-interglacial vegetation phases during the Quaternary, through the analysis of pollen records from the Mediterranean region, b) analysing timing and modes of tree species turnover and extinctions, also in relation to the dynamics of mammal communities and climate oscillations; c) deciphering the influence of human activity on the natural environment, with special attention to coastal areas in the Mediterranean regions, which are environments particularly vulnerable to human pressure and subject to marked geomorphological processes and climate changes; d) combining fossil and genetic data to investigate past plant population dynamics and evolution, through the comparison of the palaeobiogeographical distribution and modern phylogeographical structure of tree populations at time scales of 103-106 years.
Cristina Esteban
Cristina Esteban is a PhD student at Burgos University. She is an environmental Biologist currently studying some biogeographic aspects of mammal communities in Europe along the Pleistocene. She is also involved in the study of interspecific relationships at the regional level and relations hips between resource availability and taxonomic composition of biological communities. She is a member of the research team on Palaeoecology at the National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH), in Burgos (Spain).
Ericson Hölzchen
Ericson Hölzchen is a PhD student and scientific research assistant in the research center “The role of culture in early expansions of humans (ROCEEH)”. He is situated at the Senckenberg Research Institute (Frankfurt am Main, Germany). He finished his studies in Bioinformatics on modelling transitional stages primate molar morphology. He is currently working on establishing an agent-based modelling framework for Out of Africa hypotheses. This framework encompasses the mostly common hypotheses and driving factors for early hominin dispersals out of the African continent that are proposed in scientific literature. In his position as scientific researcher, he worked on maintaining the “ROCEEH Out of Africa Database (ROAD)” and is now involved in agent-based modelling to test dispersal hypotheses.
Rebekka Volmer
Rebekka Volmer is assistant professor and head of the zooarchaeological laboratory at the Archaeological Studies Program at the University of the Philippines. She is a palaeobiologist studying interactions between humans and their environment. Her research focuses on competition for food resources between hominins and animals. She finished her PhD about „Competition and resource sharing of large carnivores in the Pleistocene of Java” in May 2013 at the University of Frankfurt. She developed a new method to quantify competition relations in fossil carnivore guilds. In frame of cooperation with the project “The Role of Culture in early Expansions”, she is developing an agent based model to simulate the impact of a new immigrating hominin and his impact on the local carnivore guilds.
Andreu Ollé
Andreu Ollé is a researcher at IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) and an associate lecturer at Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, Spain). His particular interests are the Early Palaeolithic stone tools (raw materials, knapping processes, Oldowan and Acheulean assemblages), the function of stone tools (microwear and residues analyses, experimental archaeology), the general application of microscopic studies to archaeological materials, and how all that can help to improve our knowledge on the early human settlement of Europe.
He has been a member of the Atapuerca Research Team since 1990, specializing in Palaeolithic Lithic Technology and Microwear analysis. He is currently sharing the coordination of the Gran Dolina site fieldwork in Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). Other main ongoing projects are focused on the early human settlement in the Tarragona region (Spain), the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Khorramabad valley (Iran), and the monitoring and quantification of tool microwear through advanced microscopic techniques.
Alexia Wurster
Alexia Wurster is a PhD Student in the research center “The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans (ROCEEH)”. She is situated at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt am Main. She finished her master in Ecology and Evolution on agent-based modeling for migrations of fossil mammal faunas in Southeast Asia during the Pleistocene. Currently she is working on mammal dispersal and evolution in island regions and the processes that are involved. Focus lies on changes in body sizes leading to dwarfism or gigantism. Several biotic and abiotic factors that are regarded as driving factors for island evolution are investigated and then formalized in (an) agent-based model(s).
Angela Bruch
Angela Bruch is palaeobotanist in the research center “The role of culture in early expansions of humans (ROCEEH)” funded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. She is based at the Senckenberg Research Institute (Frankfurt am Main, Germany). Angela Bruch is focusing in her research on the quantitative reconstruction of terrestrial paleoenvironments, including climate quantification based on plant fossils. During the last decade she contributed to the reconstruction of Neogene environments in Eurasia with spatial and temporal analyses of paleoclimate data from various regions and times. To understand the differences in the response of terrestrial ecosystems to Pleistocene global climatic changes her activities aim to quantify climate and vegetation and to compare regional environmental systems. Her current regional focus is in the Southern Caucasus where she aims to reconstruct the climate and vegetation development in Armenia and Georgia at the time of the first early human expansion into Eurasia.
Christian Sommer
Christian Sommer is a PhD student and geographer at the research center “The Role of Culture in the Early Expansions of Humans (ROCEEH)”, funded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He is situated at the University of Tübingen (Germany) and responsible for the production, collection and online publication of paleo geodata. After studying Physical Geography, Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing in Tübingen, he works now on the reconstruction of paleolandscapes using landscape evolution models and topographic indices. This allows the investigation of paleo topography dynamics based on tectonic uplift and subsidence, integrating precipitation and sea level changes. Currently the hotspot of his research lies in Eastern South Africa. He also applies machine learning techniques to produce paleo maps and derive potential hominin habitats and hominin distribution in Europe.
Yul Altolaguirre
Yul Altolaguirre is a PhD student at Goethe University. He works with the ROCEEH team at Senckenberg Research Institute (Frankfurt am Main, Germany). He is specialized in Palynology, the study of pollen and other palynomorphs. In his current project, he is studing palynological samples from South-Easter Spain to carry out a high-resolution reconstruction of climate and vegetation successions during the Early Pleistocene. His analysis of climate and vegetation changes will provide direct evidence for the environment before, during and after the first expansion of early Homo into the Iberian Peninsula. The quantitative reconstruction of climate, regional vegetation units, and local plant communities as parameters of early human environments will support the understanding of how severe and how fast were the Early Pleistocene environmental changes.
Paula García Medrano, British Museum, Marie Skłodowska Curie IF-EF-ST Fellowship (from Sept, 2017). Her particular interests are the Early Palaeolithic stone tools (raw materials, knapping processes, Acheulean assemblages) and specifically the Large Cutting Tools production patterns and its geographical and temporal variability. Focusing on the Western side of Europe, She has particular interest on the human dispersals occurring in Western Europe (from Iberia to the North West Europe) between 0.6 – 0.4 Ma.

She has been a member of the Atapuerca Research Team since 1999, specializing in Palaeolithic Lithic Technology. She has shared the coordination of the Galería site fieldwork in Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). Visit the Western Eurpean Acheulean Project webpage for mor information ( _blank).

Ingo Timm
Ingo J. Timm is full Professor of Business Informatics at Trier University. His research is focused on (Distributed) Artificial Intelligence and simulation. In the field of computer simulation he works on theory and methods for intelligence assistance of simulation experiments. He started with paleoanthropological research in 2008 when discussing agent-based social simulation as an innovative approach to modeling early human dispersal. Together with Christine Hertler and Matthias Gutmann he is in an ongoing discussion of epistemological impacts of simulation, heterogeneous model integration and highly scalable agent-based simulation in context of paleoanthropology. Ingo received Diploma (1997), PhD (2004), and venia legendi (2006) in computer science from the University of Bremen. In 2006, he was appointed full professor at the Goethe-University Frankfurt and moved to Trier in 2010. In 2016, he founded and is now heading the Center for Informatics Research and Technology (CIRT) and its Research Lab on Simulation (TriLabS).
associated with the project
discussion topics
Cups of coffee
To stay active and productive.
Pieces of cakes
Celebrating small victories.