Summer Research

I’ve been pretty busy since classes let out, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Two years of grad school down, n more to go. Hopefully no more than four more….

In a few hours, I leave lovely Ann Arbor, MI for my summer research, to the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa. So far as I can tell, this museum has good collections of cultural artifacts, recent mammals, and tons of fossils. Many hominin remains are curated here as well, namely Australopithecus from the region–A. africanus from Sterkfontein and Makapansgat, and A. robustus from Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and I think also maybe Cooper’s Cave(?).

I’ll be focusing on the A. robustus collection. As with many fossil groups, the sample is largely teeth, and most other cranial remains are highly fragmentary–there are only a few relatively complete crania (including a remarkably well preserved skull, DNH 7 from Drimolen, which I don’t think is at the Transvaal and that I doubt I’ll get to examine. Oh well). The main project will examine the relative independence of many of the cranial, facial, and dental features in A. robustus, since these have been important in debates about whether the A. robustus and A. boisei (the latter from E. Africa) are more closely related to one another than to other hominins. Basically I’m going to test a few developmental/functional models that have been proposed, by applying a resampling procedure (that I’m still sort of in the process of developing). Hopefully it will be an interesting (and successful…) way of examining morphological integration in a fossil sample.

There are a few other projects, but this is the one I’m most interested in. I’ll do my best to keep Lawnchair readers (whoever they might be) updated. Here’s to what I hope will be a productive summer!

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