Research description: The central research questions of my lab involve primate development and life history and incorporate techniques from behavioral ecology, morphometrics, and genomics across the Order Primates and in vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.), in particular.
Through intensive fieldwork across Africa and the Caribbean with the International Vervet Research Consortium we have collected biological samples from over two thousand wild vervet monkeys. Current projects using this dataset include characterizing evolutionary patterns in the developmental morphometrics of various vervet populations, including the use of population and comparative genomic techniques. We also investigate the genomics of obesity during development in over 700 fully sequenced and pedigreed captive vervets at Wake Forest University. Work is ongoing to assess the phenotypic impact of captive-discovered QTL in our extensive wild sample, assessing variability in phenotype expression and population-specific selection based on local ecology and anthropogenic impacts. Field work for these projects is ongoing (UROP students are welcome), and can be followed on social media at #BUvervets16 and #BUvervets17.
Another area of investigation is the evolution of dental phenotypes across primates. With colleagues at UC Berkeley, we have discovered a method for better understanding the underlying genetic architecture of dental phenotypes using quantitative genetics and metric measures of museum specimens. Students in my lab have ongoing projects in local museums collecting dental measurements of both extant and fossil New World monkeys and lemurs with the goal of better understanding the evolution of these dental phenotypes across primates.