Research

Influence of the brain on cranial architecture (dissertation research): My dissertation research investigated the role of the brain in shaping overall cranial architechture in primates by testing specific hypotheses relating the morphology of the cranial base to the spatial relationship between the neurocranium and facial skeleton. Data to test these hypotheses were collected from radiographs of anthropoid primate crania. This research suggested 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.  My future work on this subject will incorporate data from the human fossil record as well as from additional samples of living primate species (including CT scans).

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 am also working on 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.

A mouse model for primate hybridization (post-doc research): My post-doc research will contribute to Dr. Becky Ackermann’s ongoing research on hybridization in primates. Specifically, this research aims to quantify how hybridization affects the magnitudes and patterns of skeletal variation in divergent mammalian taxa. My contribution to this research will involve studies of a mouse model that is being used to assess the effects of hybridization on cranial and postcranial variation in primates. The data from this project will be crucial for developing and testing hypotheses regarding hybridization in the human fossil record.

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.