Research Q & A
What’s your hometown?
I grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is near New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., so I spent a lot of my childhood in the museums and zoos in those cities.
What are you currently working on?
My research combines dental shape analysis with dietary isotopes to better understand how competition affects primate feeding behavior. The Bell Museum award is financing CT-scanning of primate dental impressions as well as isotope analysis of primate hair. By using living primates as a proxy, I hope my research will be able to untangle questions related to fossil primate diet. I am currently CT-scanning primate dental impressions and having primate hair samples analyzed for carbon and oxygen isotopes.
How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?
I have always loved primates and anthropology. Growing up one of my favorite things was going to a museum or a zoo. In college I became very interested in diet and how tooth shape can reflect dietary behavior. Now I get to combine my love of primates and museums with my academic interest in diet.
What will your next steps/research be?
My next steps will be to apply this research to fossil primates from the early Miocene. Previous analysis of these primates’ tooth shape implies primates at east African sites have high dietary overlap, I am hoping to use my methods to detect subtle variations in their dietary behavior.
What would be the five-song soundtrack to your research work/What five songs do you listen to most while you work?
I love all music but while I work, I primarily listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I love anything spooky or supernatural, so “Ghosts in the Burbs” or “Lore” were my go-to with data collection. I am currently listening to the audiobook “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson.
Tessa standing outside of the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History after collecting dental impressions in their primate collection