I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Climate School at Columbia University, working with Dr. Kevin Uno. I investigate how past environments have shaped primate behavior and evolution over time, using a combination of tools including dental anatomy, biogeochemistry, and paleontology. My broader interests include the relationship between climate and evolution on a variety of scales, with a particular focus on human ancestors in Africa.
Teeth open extraordinary windows into past worlds because their structure and chemistry record intimate details of our daily lives, and because they may remain chemically stable even millions of years after death, burial, and fossilization. As a postdoctoral researcher at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge I studied the genetics and proteomics of tooth formation, and tools by which teeth can be turned into diagnostic indicators of childhood exposure to pollutants, including lead in the teeth of Pleistocene Neanderthal children. My earlier doctoral work found that teeth can record detailed meteorological events in the world around us including individual snow storms, through combining a number of approaches including large animal experimentation, synchrotron imaging, isotope geochemistry, and machine learning.
My current research seeks to investigate climate-evolution dynamics on longer timescales in Africa, by investigating seasonal environments and ecology throughout the Cenozoic. This includes work alongside the Turkana Miocene Project, an interdisciplinary and international collaboration aimed at pushing paleoenvironmental reconstructions back into the Miocene and Oligocene of eastern Africa. I am also engaged in multiple projects to better understand the seasonal ecology of primates in equatorial Africa. These include a collaborative, large-scale water monitoring program stretching from Senegal to Tanzania, and a collaborative initiative to map seasonal records in primate teeth from modern and ancient settings.
In my work I am especially motivated by education and mentorship, and have been very fortunate to have worked with many truly excellent undergraduate and graduate student scientists-in-training, including at Harvard, at the Forsyth, at Columbia, and in Kenya.
In my work I use a variety of methods to study enamel formation, including work with animal models, confocal microscopy and computed tomography, stable light isotope geochemistry, proteomics, genetics, and machine learning.
My research involves collaboration with field teams and museums, sampling paleontological materials from field sites in order to reconstruct past environmental and behavioral patterns.
Interpreting the large datasets produced by modern methods in biology requires computational tools and modeling. In my work I use physiological models, optimization routines, and machine learning tools to learn more about processes of growth, behavior, and environment change.
At Harvard and Columbia I've taught multiple introductory human evolution classes at the undergraduate and graduate level. At Harvard I worked as a fellowships tutor with students at the college for four years. I've worked as a teaching assistant in human anatomy and taught human anatomy labs, and have served as a teaching assistant for geology, ecology, paleontology, human evolution, and archaeology classes at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya.
For a more detailed record of my research, publications, funding and presentations.