Ph.D., Northwestern University Medical Center
Evolutionary and Functional Morphology of the Mammalian Skull
My research aims to understand the relationships between the form, function and evolution of the mammalian head. Specifically, I aim to better understand how certain activities, such as chewing or biting, affect the form and evolution of the skull and face. Most of this work is question driven and falls into one of three research avenues: 1) Physiology and functional morphology, 2) Behavioral and ecological morphology and 3) Comparative morphometrics.
A major component of my research involves studying the physiology of chewing and biting. This involves using in vivo methods, such as electromyography, strain gage approaches and video analysis, to study jaw-muscle activity patterns, facial bone strains and jaw movements during chewing and biting in living animals.
A second research focus involves conducting field studies of primate chewing and biting. In addition to allowing us to assess how well our lab research mimics natural field conditions, this work provides an environmental context for interpreting morphological adaptations in the mammalian head. Recent field work includes studying the mechanics of tree gouging by common marmosets at the Estação Ecológica do Tapacurá, Brasil, studying the ecological morphology of dietary segregation among three sympatric bamboo lemurs in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar and collecting electromyographic data during natural feeding behaviors in free-ranging howling monkeys at Hacienda La Pacifica, Costa Rica.
Finally, I am interested in comparative analyses of skull and jaw-muscle form among mammals. These comparative studies complement the lab and field research by broadly describing patterns of form-function associations and morphological integration among species and/or age-groups.