New course offering – Evolution of Cognition

I am excited to be offering a brand-new course for Spring Quarter, entitled ‘Evolution of Cognition.’ There are still spots available, so feel free to sign up. This course also fulfills the Writing Proficiency 3 requirement.

The goal of the course is to discuss the evolution of large brain size in primates and how it interacted with reproductive ecology (e.g., parental care, lactation and resource availability, changes in ovulation/estrus, and mating systems) as well as anatomical changes related to bipedality. Students will be asked to write a grant-proposal style paper on a topic of their choice, related to the class. This is a biology-heavy class focused on the evolution of cognition in our species and other primates (with comments on other animals, e.g., dolphins, canids, elephants), leading to humans today.

Fall quarter is underway!

Fall quarter is officially up and running here at Western! I am teaching ANTH 215 Intro to Biological Anthropology this quarter. This class is designed to introduce students to the biological side of anthropology, including human osteology, primate paleontology, human evolution, and primate behavior, as well as comparative biology, evolutionary theory, and genetics. Additionally, this course addresses modern human biological variation from historical, comparative, evolutionary, biomedical, and cultural perspectives. I have a great group of students in my class, an excellent graduate student instructor running the labs, and I am looking forward to a great quarter!

Another successful ICVM meeting

I just got back from Prague where I attended and presented at ICVM 19. It was an excellent meeting with a lot of really interesting research, and it was great getting to talk science with so many colleagues! While I was there, I presented my ongoing work on human enamel-dentine junction morphology, and I was happy to receive a lot of really useful feedback on the research. I also got spend some time enjoying Prague – it is a beautiful city! Thank you ICVM 19, and I hope to see you in Australia in 2022!

New paper out in Ecology and Evolution

I am happy to report that our new study came out this week in Ecology and Evolution! The paper is open-access and freely available.

This new research investigates the diversity of tooth morphology in mammals, finding that, contrary to previous assumptions, diet does not play a dominant role in the evolution of dental proportions. Instead, the study points to stabilizing selection as a key factor in understanding the diversity of tooth morphology in mammals. The study, a collaboration between scientists in the United States and France, looked at the teeth of more than 1,500 mammals held in museum collections in six countries to investigate the role of ancestry and diet on the evolution of dental proportions. This is the largest investigation of dental proportions to date.

The citation for the article is:

Monson TA, et al. (2019) Evidence of strong stabilizing effects on the evolution of boreoeutherian (Mammalia) dental proportionsEcology and Evolution.

Future PI at Western Washington University

I am honored to announce that I have accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Western Washington University, beginning fall 2009.

At Western, I will be running the Bioanthropology lab and teaching Intro to Bio Anth and Osteology. I will also be conducting research on primate evolution, life history, and reproductive ecology in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate researchers.

I am very excited to start this next chapter of my academic career, and I can’t wait to join the community and faculty at Western. It’s a dream to head back to the Pacific Northwest! And I am looking forward to working with Washington students in anthropology and biology, with goals of advancing science, science communication, and outreach.

Integrative Human Evolution Symposium 2019

Along with PhD student Rahel Brügger, I am hosting the 2019 Integrative Human Evolution Symposium! The Integrative Human Evolution Symposium (IHES 2019) is a one-day Symposium, the first of its kind in Zurich, to be held at the University of Zurich Irchel Campus on April 11th, 2019. The Symposium is free, open to the public, and in English. 

At the Symposium, invited early-career researchers from universities in Switzerland in the fields of Anthropology, Evolutionary Medicine, Comparative Linguistics, Philosophy, Paleogenomics, Environmental Systems Science, and Geography will talk about human evolutionary studies, past and future.

We were awarded funding from the Graduate Campus at UZH to organize and host this interdisciplinary symposium, with four primary mission goals: 1) To provide career development opportunities for junior researchers (graduate students and postdoctoral researchers), 2) To facilitate an interdisciplinary research environment, 3) To promote a platform for diversity in academia and the sciences, and 4) To offer an opportunity for science communication and education. 

Everyone is welcome and invited to attend this free Symposium. If you are in Zurich, we hope to see you there!

New paper out on machine learning and human evolution

I am excited to announce that we have a new paper out now, titled, “Using machine learning to classify extant apes and interpret the dental morphology of the chimpanzee-human last common ancestor.” The paper, co-authored by Dr. David Armitage and Prof. Dr. Leslea Hlusko, was released this weekend in PaleoBios, the official publication of the University of California Museum of Paleontology. The study uses machine learning algorithms that ‘learn’ what the teeth of living apes look like and then apply the training to interpret and classify teeth from 95 fossil apes that lived in Africa, Europe, and Asia over the last 23 million years. This is one of the first studies to use artificial intelligence to investigate human origins.

The release of the paper was accompanied by a popular science article written by

New paper out on the science of arm span in sports

Body proportions are significantly associated with athletic success in the NBA and MMA, according to new scientific report

July 16, 2018 – Berkeley, CA – Scientists at the University of California have released new research showing that body proportions are significantly associated with elite athletic success in the NBA and mixed martial arts (MMA). The study, led by Dr. Tesla Monson, looked at arm span (AKA wingspan, or reach) and height in more than 10,000 individuals, including 2,990 basketball players, 1,284 MMA fighters, and 6,068 recruits for the US Army. This is one of the first studies to scientifically compare body proportions and athletic success in the NBA and MMA and provides statistical evidence for the advantages of a wide arm span relative to height in athletes.

Moved to the Anthropologisches Institut at UZH!

I am happy to announce that I have officially started a postdoctoral research position at the Anthropologisches Institut und Museum at the Universität Zürich in Zürich, Switzerland! I am working with Drs. Christoph Zollikofer and Marcia Ponce de León on a project characterizing global variation in the enamel-dentine junction in modern humans. Be sure to check my research page to keep up to date on my current projects!

Tesla outside the Anthropology Museum at the University of Zürich.