Influence of the brain on cranial architecture: I am interested in the role of the brain in shaping overall cranial architechture in primates. To this end, I test specific hypotheses relating the morphology of the cranial base to the spatial relationship between the neurocranium and facial skeleton using data collected from radiographs and CT scans of extinct and extant primate skulls. Results of this research suggest that the brain does not play as important a role in overall cranial morphology in anthropoids as previous thought and has important implications for modern human origins.  

Cranial and mandibular ontogeny: I am also currently involved in research that investigates the ontogenetic basis for adult variation in humans and non-human primates. This work includes collaborations with Drs. Claire Terhune (University of Arkansas), Heather Smith (Midwestern University) and Chris Robinson (Bronx Community College).

Runx2 gene: I have an ongoing research project with Prof. Anne Stone (Arizona State University) that investigates the effect of the Runx2 gene on cranial form in primates. The Runx2 gene, which is a transcription factor, has been shown to underlie variation in facial size in many carnivoran species.  Our preliminary data suggest that this gene also influences facial size in anthropoid primates. This finding is important to studies of human evolution, as it would suggest that a relatively simple protein-coding gene underlies a substantial proportion of overall cranial variation in primates.

Understanding the role of hybridization in the hominin lineage: I collaborate with Dr. Becky Ackermann on research relating to hybridization in primates. Specifically, this research aims to quantify how hybridization affects the magnitudes and patterns of skeletal variation in divergent mammalian taxa and to apply these findings to an understanding of hybridization in the human fossil record. My contribution involves work on a mouse model for primate hybridization and work using baboon hybrids as a model for hominin hybridization.

Cranial variation in chacma baboons (Papio ursinus)This project, which is a collaboration with researchers at the University of Cape Town (Riashna Sithaldeen, Becky Ackermann,  and Banele Dosi) and the University of Calgary (David Katz), investigates the correlation between cranial morphology and patterns of genetic and geographic variation in southern African baboon (sub-)species. As this species evolved in the same environmental, geographic, and temporal setting as Late Pleistocene hominins, it is hoped that the results of this project will provide important insights for the emergence of modern humans.   

Data sharing: I have a commitment to data sharing, and, as such, I have developed a free, online database of the radiographs I produced for my dissertation. On this website, users will be able to search, browse, and/or download the radiographs as high-resolution digital images.