Over the past year, I have often heard these adjectives used to describe my recent career change. My friends jokingly refer to me as “an up-and-coming monkey doctor” who lived her past life as “a former Wall Street cog”. Many of my NYCEP peers have heard my full conversion story and, consequently, my enthusiastically blissful rants about this new career path. I feel incredibly lucky to look forward to my workday upon waking, to be surrounded by likeminded (a.k.a. evolution-obsessed) intellectuals, and to be interested in and excited about the questions which my future work will hopefully answer.
My first academic conference, the 2015 Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA), reinforced my appreciation of not only this new career path, but of my membership in the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP).
My excitement began weeks before arriving in St. Louis when I received the AAPA Conference schedule, as I found NYCEP involvement at many different levels, from symposium organizers to invited podium speakers to poster presenters.
NYCEP Organized Symposia
The conference opened with a symposium co-organized by one of our own, Dr. Herman Pontzer (Hunter College, CUNY), titled “Energetics in Human and Non-Human Primate Evolution”.
His talk on hominoid energetics blew away all my expectations and set a high bar for the rest of the conference:
The traditional Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) model posits that TEE is equal to the sum of basal metabolic rate (BMR) and physical activity level. This has not, however, been tested in hunter-gatherer populations (representative of the ancestral human subsistence strategy). It is essential to understand this model since it is a key assumption underlying the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis (Aiello & Wheeler, 1995), Charnov’s Life History Theory (Charnov, 1993), and many other ideas influencing our study of human and nonhuman primate evolution. The work by Dr. Pontzer and colleagues found similar daily energy expenditure levels between hunter-gatherers and Westerners (after controlling for body size) even physical activity levels were higher for hunter-gatherer population. This suggests a very different TEE model, one in which TEE is actually constrained and, consequently, represents an evolved physiological trait. You can read more about Dr. Pontzer’s research in his NYCEP blog post here.
This type of revolutionary work exemplifies the scientific process of testing all assumptions, and is representative of what I someday dream of accomplishing with my own research.
The other talks comprising this energetics-focused symposium spanned multiple disciplines, including endocrinology, primatology, developmental biology, neurobiology, and paleoanthropology. To me, this was a great representation of NYCEP, which fosters multidisciplinary approaches to the study of human origins.
I also had the opportunity to observe NYCEP success from the burgeoning scientist (a.k.a. graduate student) perspective. Not only did all NYCEP student posters and podium talks display impressive results in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but some of our members received Student Awards for their efforts!
Maryjka Blaszczyk (NYU) received the Sherwood Washburn Prize for her podium talk “Boldness in wild vervet monkeys: Individual differences and consistency across contexts.” Catalina Villamil (NYU) received a Student Prize Honorable Mention for her poster “The influence of cranial and postcranial integration on the evolution of hominin basicranial morphology” and Megan Petersdorf (NYU) won the Primate Interest Group Prize as well as a Student Prize Honorable Mention for her poster “What can the skeleton tell us about flanging? Hard-tissue markers of cheek flanges in Mandrillus.” Congratulations to all Student Prize winners and Honorable Mentions!
Back Row: J Herrera, Maryjka Blaszczyk (NYU), E Dove, Megan Petersdorf (NYU), Susan Anton (NYU), L Sparrow, Catalina Villamil (NYU), N Holowka. Front Row: A Di Fiore, M Granatosky.
I can’t wait for next year’s conference to present my project on hard tissue markers of cheek flanges in male orangutans, a follow-up to Megan’s work on mandrills and drills. This conference left me even more motivated to add to the long list of NYCEP member accomplishments. Their example is one I will follow as I prepare a (hopefully) interesting and effective presentation of my own.
Overall, my first time at the AAPAs served to reinforce what I already knew, but love being reminded of – I am (and we all are) extremely lucky to be a part of this fascinating field, and to be surrounded by a group exceptionally talented individuals. I guess I think it’s pretty strange/surprising/odd/bizarre that anyone would want to do anything else.
An entire book could be filled with the amazing and groundbreaking new research across all the subfields of physical anthropology coming out of NYCEP, and other programs, presented at the AAPAs this year. Below is a list of all NYCEP faculty and student abstracts presented as either podium talks or posters.
Cranial shape and intrageneric diversity in the genus Cercopithacoides. Anderson, M., Frost, SR., Gilbert, CC., and Delson E.
The patterning cascade model and Carabelli’s cusp expression in metameres of the mixed human dentition: exploring a morphogenetic model. Astorino, CM, Paul, KS., and Bailey, SE.
What facilitates facultative allomaternal care in red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer)? A preliminary investigation. Baden, AL. and Tecot, SR.
Gaps in Chinese Paleoanthropology: A view from Guangxi. Bae, CJ., Wang, W., Li, D., Bailey, S., Ludeman, E., Chen, J., Benitez, RA., and Gutierrez, E.
Allometry and tooth shape of the lower deciduous M2 and permanent M1. Bailey, SE., Benazzi, S., and Hublin, JJ.
The phylogenetic position of Proconsul and the difficulty of dealing with stem taxa in the fossil record. Bales, AD.
An efficient novel technique for genotyping MHC-CRB exon 2 in primates. Bergey, CM.
Boldness in wild vervet monkeys: individual differences and consistency across contexts. Blaszczyk, MB.
Late Pliocene to Late Pleistocene paleoenvironments in southwestern Kenya from carbon isotopes in herbivore tooth enamel. Blumenthal, SA. Cerling, TE., Ditchfield, PW., Bishop, LC., Faith, JT., Tryon, CA., Peppe, DJ., Beverly, EJ., and Potts, R.
High-throughput restriction site associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) for genomic studies of primates using museum specimens. Burrell, AS., Disotell, TR., Haueisen, S., and Bergey, CM.
Partial skeleton of early Eocene Tinimomys graybulliensis (Primates, Micromomyidae) from the Clarks Fork Basin, Wyomind. Chester, SB., Sargis, EJ., Bloch, JI., and Moyer, DM.
Effects of male social upheaval on social bonds and stress in female chacma baboons. Chowdhury, S. And Swedell, L.
Why have tarsiers jumped between so many branches of the primate tree? Disotell, TR.
Fusion of the public symphysis and the use of Suchey-Brooks in African apes. Eyre, J.
Cercopithecoides williamsi shows the earliest fossil evidence for pollical reduction in a fossil colobine. Frost, SR., Gilbert, CC., Pugh, KD., Guthrie, EH., and Delson, E.
On the relationship between visual acuity and vomeronasal function in primates. Garrett, EC. and Kirk, EC.
Review of Olduvai cercopithecoids reveals a newly recognized taxon and biochronological connection to South Africa. Gilbert, CC., Frost, SR., and Delson, E.
Unique morphology found in the first tarsal bones of Antillothrix bernensis, a medium-sized Caribbean platyrrhine subfossil. Gladman, JT. and Rosenberger, AL.
Predicting M1 crown area from dm2 in modern and fossil Homo. Glaze, ES. and Bailey, SE.
Investigating the variation at pterion across platyrhines, with special attention to Alouatta. Halenar, LB.
The impact of past climate cycles on the paleodemography of East African ungulates as inferred from genomic RAD-seq data. Haueisen, S., Bergey, CM., Disotell, TR., and Burrell, AS.
A test of the agreement between mitochondrial DNA and nuclear microsatellite based reconstructions of biological distance among regional populations. Hubbard, AR. and Raaum, RL.
Proximal tibial shaft dimensions in extant hominoids and early hominins. Kozma, EE. and Harrison, T.
Chewing efficiency variation with food material properties and masticatory morphology in humans. Laird, MF., Pontzer, H., and Vogel, ER.
Similarities in the primate vertebral formulae and implications for phylogeny and locomotor behavior. Lee, AB., Konigsberg, LW., and Williams, SA.
Shuar Health and Life History Project: Varieties of collaborative research and the transition of scientific research in Amazonian Ecuador. Madimenos, FC. and Sugiyama, LS.
Examining the links among fruit signals, nutritional value, and the sensory behaviors of wild capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus). Melin, AD., Shirasu, M., Matshushita, Y., Myers, MS., Bergstrom, ML., Venkataraman, V., Rothman, JM., Fedigan, LM., Touhara, K., and Kawamura, S.
Lucy plus one: Intermingling of a social individual in the spinal columns of A.L. 288-1. Meyer, MR., Williams, SA., Smith, M., and Sawyer, GJ.
Insights into trunk modularity: the relationship between lumbar vertebral dimensions and pelvic shape in recent humans and chimpanzees. Middleton, ER.
The systematic status of Bunopithecus sericus a Pleistocene gibbon from Chongqing Province, southern China. Ortiz, A., Pilbrow, V., Villamil, CI., Korsgaard, JG., Bailey, SE., and Harrison, T.
Body mass estimation in platyrrhines: Methodological considerations and fossil applications. Perry, JMG., Cooke, SB., Halenar, LB., Runestad, JA., and Ruff, CB.
What can the skeleton tell us about flanging? Hard-tissue markers of cheek flanges in Mandrillus. Petersdorf, M., Highham , JP., and Williams, SA.
Effects of early life experience on cortisol/salivary alpha-amylase symmetry in free-ranging juvenile rhesus monkeys. Petrullo, LA., Mandalaywala, TM., Maestripieri, D., and Higham, JP.
Evolvability and autonomy of limb proportions in Homo and other hominoids. Polk, JD., Williams, SA., Grabowski, MW., and Roseman, CC.
Humans, the high-energy ape: hominoid energetics and life history evolution. Pontzer, H., Brown, MH., Dunsworth, HM., and Ross, SR.
Phylogenetic relationships of living and fossil African papionins: combined evidence from morphology and molecules. Pugh, KD. and Gilber, CC.
Estimates of fossil hominin quadriceps physiological cross sectional area from patellar dimensions. Ramirez, KR. and Pontzer, H.
Ulnar shape and locomotion in primates. Rein, TR., Harvati, K., and Harrison, T.
Vervets in an anthropogenic landscape: Reduced breeding seasonality and mixed diet. Schoof, VA., Twinomugisha, D., Teichroeb, JA., Rothman, JM., and Chapman, CA.
Integration of nervous system tissues into primate phylogenetics. Shearer, BM.
Female friendships in a ‘non-female-bonded’ cercopithecine: genetic correlates of sociality and female choice in hamadryas baboons. Staedele, V., Vigilant, L., and Swedell, L.
A preliminary paleoecological analysis of newly discovered fossiliferous localities at the middle Miocene site of La Venta, Colombia. Tallman, M., Cooke, SB., Shearer, BM., and Link, A.
Energetic costs of testosterone: higher testosterone is associated with greater lean muscle mass and total energetic expenditure among Tsimane forager-horticulturalists. Trumble, BC., Cummings, D., Beheim, B., Stieglitz, J., Yetish, G., Pontzer, H., Kaplan, H., and Gurven, M.
The influence of cranial and postcranial integration on the evolution of hominin basicranial morphology. Villamil, CI.
Coping with a challenging environment: nutritional balancing, health, and energetics in wild Bornean orangutans. Vogel, ER., Rothman, JM., Moldawer, AM., Bransford, TD., Emery-Thompson, ME., Van Noordwijk, MA., Atmoko, SCU., Crowley, BE., Knott, CD., Erb, WM., and Raubenheimer, D.
1) Aiello, L. C., & Wheeler, P. (1995). The expensive-tissue hypothesis: the brain and the digestive system in human and primate evolution. Current anthropology, 199-221.
2) Charnov, E. L. (1993). Life history invariants: some explorations of symmetry in evolutionary ecology (Vol. 6). Oxford University Press, USA.