Research

My research program is interdisciplinary, drawing on my background in anthropology as well as my more recent training in paleontology, ecology, and evolution. Under this broad umbrella, I take a multi-level approach to investigating mammalian evolution, focusing on the hard tissues of the skeleton and teeth. My research also seeks to better understand the genetic architecture of morphological patterning, the evolution of adaptive traits, and species variation in the fossil record.

I am currently involved in several multi-faceted research projects with researchers at the University of California Berkeley, Boston University, Universität Zürich in Switzerland, and University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. All of my projects explore morphological variation across taxonomic levels, from intra-individual, to species variation, to mammalian variation more broadly, with the goals of answering three overarching questions:

  • Can variation help us understand underlying developmental and genetic patterning mechanisms?

Past projects have looked at:

Metameric variation in primate dentition

Dental patterning in primates as the output of genetic patterning mechanisms

 

 

 

 

and Pleiotropic selection on dental variation and adaptation in modern humans

 

 

 

Ongoing work on this research question includes the characterization of body size variation and allometry in modern humans, the evolution of dental proportions in mammals, and the relationship between craniofacial constraint, life history, and the evolution of tooth number in mammals.

  • Can variation help us understand speciation and species concepts in the fossil record?

Past projects have looked at:

Materials collected by the UC Africa Expedition and 

Patterns of craniofacial variation and taxonomic diversity in fossil Old World monkeys

Ongoing work on this research question is focused on understanding the importance of comparative samples and choosing phenotypes of interest, as well as the development of machine learning methods for interpreting morphology in the fossil record.

 

 

  • Can variation help us understand evolutionary constraint and the evolution of life history?

For my dissertation, I looked at the relationship between phylogeny, life history, and the evolution of dental eruption sequence in artiodactyls and primates. Half of my dissertation is published as The Evolution of Dental Eruption Sequence in Artiodactyls. The other half, focused on primates, is currently in press at the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.