Meet The Lab
Dr. Strait is a paleoanthropologist interested in understanding how and why the various species of early hominins diversified. He is also utilizes engineering, experimental, comparative and ecological methods to test hypotheses about feeding biomechanics in fossil hominins and non-human primates. Currently, he is working at two paleoanthropological sites, a late Pleistocene cave site, Arma Veirana, in northern Italy, and an early Pleistocene cave in South Africa, Drimolen, that preserves evidence of robust australopiths and early members of the genus Homo. Dr. Strait runs a summer field school at Drimolen.
Sarah E. Baumgarten, M.S., M.A.
Doctoral Candidate and Lab Manager
Sarah is a biological anthropologist interested in biomechanics, anatomy, and forensic anthropology. Her current research focuses on morphological variation in hominin and extant primate premolar tooth roots as a means of examining dietary adaptations. She also holds a M.S. in Forensic and Biological Anthropology from Mercyhurst University, and works with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team on human rights abuse cases worldwide. Sarah has worked at several international field sites, including West Turkana and Arma Veirana.
Jacqueline Garnett, B.Sc.
Jacqueline is primarily interested in hominin phylogeny and seeks to understand how the way in which we classify and organize characters affect the outcomes of cladistic analysis. Her proposed research aims to use inferences about mechanics, development, and quantitative genetics to formulate hypotheses of integration and modularity in hominin dentition. Her research examines the effect of these hypotheses on the results of cladistic analysis and with the aim of modeling morphological evolvability in this group through time.
Rachel Kuzma, M.A.
Rachel earned a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota in 2016 under the guidance of Dr. Kieran McNulty, and an M.A. in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis in 2019. Rachel’s current research examines Homo erectus paleodemic relationships using morphological distance as a proxy for genetic distance in order to better understand H. erectus population dynamics. Understanding these population dynamics can reveal information such as how H. erectus relates to other hominin species, as well as how and when H. erectus spread across Africa and Eurasia. Her research interests include paleoanthropology, dental anthropology, systematics, variation, and quantitative genetics. Rachel has worked at field sites worldwide, including Dmanisi, Rusinga Island, and Arma Veirana.
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Jennifer is currently a Junior at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in Anthropology: Global Health and Environment and minoring in both Biology and Psychology. After graduating from Washington University she plans to pursue a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree. Jennifer is interested in Paleoanthropology, Primatology, and Evolutionary Psychology. She also has an interest in pursuing research related to evolutionary nutrition, diet, and feeding patterns in hominins.
She is currently a research assistant in the laboratory and working on a collaborative quantitative genetics project headed by Dr. Karen Baab of Midwestern University.
Catherine McLean, M.A.
Catherine is a paleoanthropologist interested in human evolution through the Pleistocene. Currently, her primary research interests are the phylogeny, morphological variation, and biogeography of Pleistocene hominin paleodemes in East Asia. Her research includes the theoretical considerations behind the construction of paleodemes and the use of paleodemes in hominin evolutionary studies.
Yeganeh Sekhavati, M.A.
Yeganeh is a biological anthropologist interested in macroevolutionary processes, phylogenetic comparative methods, applied statistics, and applications of machine learning in paleoanthropology. She uses probabilistic models to study the evolution of locomotion across primates. Her current research examines the pattern and processes by which adaptations to bipedalism evolved.
Rachel Sender, M.A.
Rachel is a biological anthropologist interested in the dental adaptations that make our teeth strong against fracture. Teeth are highly variable across taxa with a direct correlation between morphology and function, so by testing how teeth from different ape and fossil human species react when subjected to different masticatory situations I hope to gain insight into their dietary specializations (i.e - hard vs. soft food diets). I use microCT scans of teeth and jaws to create finite element 3D models which are then subjected to finite element testing – a method adapted from mechanical engineering.
The lab houses several pieces of equipment including two Dell Precision desktop workstations and an Artec Space Spider 3-D laser scanner. The lab also has access to various software packages for the processing, creation, and analysis of 3D data, as well as for phylogenetic analysis. These include RMET 5.0, GeoMagic, Materialise Mimics, Materialise 3Matic, and Strand7 finite element analysis software.