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 Inverse.com
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.
Check out my recent interview with Planet Forward on the importance of science communication and representation in science. This is a great piece on why SCIENCE MATTERS! Thanks to Navya at UC Berkeley for writing it up and making a difference in science!
Dr. Tesla Monson featured in the Planet Forward newsletter
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.
Our new paper on the evolution of the maternal:infant relationship came out last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Lead author, Dr. Leslea Hlusko, also wrote a blog post on the article, featured on The Conversation. I am really excited to be a part of this project that brings together dental anthropology, genomics, cellular biology, and paleoecology to pose a hypothesis about natural selection on a population of people living at high latitudes in the Beringian Refugium during the Last Glacial Maximum.
The article is open access, so anyone can read the article HERE.
Other press on our recent work:
Science Magazine: Gene linked to breastfeeding may have boosted survival of earliest Americans
UC Berkeley: Did last ice age affect breast feeding in Native Americans?
Newsweek: Genetic Mutation Behind Shoveled Teeth May Have Been Key to Ancestral Survival
I am so proud of my undergraduates! They recently won Best Poster in Ecology and Evolution at the West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference, hosted by St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, CA. They gave an exceptional presentation on dental variation in megabats (Pteropodidae). I can’t wait to see how this project develops! Congratulations again Maddie, Rena, and Shruti!
Rena (left) and Maddie (right) at the 2018 WCBSURC
Madeleine Zuercher (first author), undergraduate at UC Berkeley, and Tesla Monson.
While I am not able to attend the AAPA meetings in Austin this year, I am still pleased to be there in scientific spirit as a co-author on an excellent poster during the Saturday afternoon session: Primate Evolution and Anatomy. Please stop by and check out our work on dental variation in New World monkeys!
Here we are in the Spring semester! I had an amazing time teaching IB35AC, Human Biological Variation, last semester. Being at the head of a 300 person class was an incredible experience that gave me great insight into the intricacies of teaching such a large course. I am really grateful for all of the support I received from Dr. Hlusko and my five GSIs.
This Spring has been packed with activities. Just last night, I gave an invited DeCal lecture on “Medical Secrets” for a course at the intersection of journalism and public health. And I have a great lecture planned for the Marin Science Seminar next week. Other than that, it’s been all working on manuscripts, all the time. Big announcement coming soon on my plans for next year!
After teaching a smaller version of the course this summer, I am very excited to be head instructor of IB35AC, a 300 student class on human biological variation, this fall. IB35AC is a lower-level class that fulfills the American Cultures component of the undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, a breadth requirement unique to UC Berkeley that asks all students to explore the ethnic and racial variation within the United States from a comparative perspective. This course also addresses human biological variation, including phenotypes like skin pigmentation, intelligence, sex, and gender, from biomedical, anthropological, and evolutionary perspectives. A key goal of this class is to help students understand the role of both biological and cultural components of human variation in the evolution of our species.
I am happy to announce that I have finished my PhD program at UC Berkeley. Yippeeee!!! It’s been an amazing 5 years in the Integrative Biology program, but I am ready to enjoy life as a doctor. Don’t worry – I’m not disappearing. I will be lecturing here at Cal this summer as head instructor of IB 35ac – Human Biological Variation. Then, it’s on to a postdoc!