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Research Conducted at the Lab

Welcome to the Ungar Lab! 

The focus of research in our laboratory is the ecology and evolution of past mammals, especially human ancestors.  More specifically, we develop new approaches for using teeth to reconstruct diets of past species so we can better understand the impact of environmental change on past life.  We also use our techniques for clinically-oriented research and to document oral health in living peoples transitioning from traditional foraging to village life.    Our next big project is to apply lessons learned to better understand the effects of climate change today on Arctic ecology and peoples. 

The laboratory trains and supports research of graduate students and undergraduates at the University of Arkansas and other universities, and fosters collaborations among researchers at many institutions across the US and abroad.  Our projects vary from efforts to reconstruct habitats and diets of past species to developing new approaches to infer the etiology of dental erosion in clinical populations.  We use many approaches to studying tooth wear and shape, including  confocal profilometry, laser scanning, and digital photogrammetry combined with scale-sensitive fractal analysis and geographic information systems software.

Please use the links on this site to explore our research projects, participants, and facilities. And don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in joining our laboratory as a collaborator, graduate student, or undergraduate honors student.

Peter Ungar, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor and Director of Environmental Dynamics
University of Arkansas

Statement on Diversity and Inclusion

In light of recent events regarding the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery (among many others), the Ungar Lab wishes to publicly affirm our commitment to the equitable treatment and elimination of all forms of discrimination against students and researchers of color.  We support a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where we require mutual respect for all individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Paleoanthropology is the study of the roots of all humanity, for all humanity.  And its practitioners should represent the diversity of humanity – its backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. The Ungar Lab is committed to broadening diversity within our discipline and giving voice to those who have been underrepresented or not at all represented, in the study of human origins.   Ungar Lab alums and students include Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), members of the LGBTQ community, first generation college students, those from lower-income and immigrant families, and people of many faiths. Our students and other researchers contribute their unique talents to science and engage in efforts toward social change. We pledge to continue upholding our commitment to the rights of and respect for all individuals; and we welcome and encourage students, postdocs and collaborators from all backgrounds to join us.

We call to action faculty and educators to ensure adequate and effective cultural diversity education along with advocacy of racial and ethnic equity.  It is also imperative that we educate our students with the thoughts and perspectives of BIPOC and other underrepresented groups both to foster an environment of inclusion and also to improve the science of Paleoanthropology.   Our discipline has suffered inherent biases, and we must constantly review, question, analyze, and overcome these.

In conclusion, the Ungar Lab is dedicated to fostering and celebrating diversity and inclusion, and especially to supporting all BIPOC students, faculty, and staff, and we endeavor to continue learning, listening, and adapting to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for academia.

Peter S. Ungar – Distinguished Professor of Anthropology
Jenny Burgman – PhD candidate in Environmental Dynamics
Elicia F. Abella – PhD candidate in Anthropology
Alexandria Peterson – PhD candidate in Environmental Dynamics
Liam Zachary – PhD candidate in Anthropology
Brian Sparr – Masters student in Anthropology
Paramita Choudry – PhD student in Anthropology
Putu Pujiantari – Masters student in Anthropology

 

Methods of Analysis

Dental Topography

Dental topographic analysis is the study of functional aspects of tooth form, combining 3D scanning with quantitative shape characterization. Our laboratory pioneered the use of laser scanning and geographic information systems to model dental cusps as mountains, fissures as valleys, etc. The resulting data are used to infer diets from fossil species, and to consider how tooth shape and function change with gross wear over the course of a lifetime. Our focus has been on extant primates and other mammals as well as fossil hominins and other extinct primates. We have also developed, with colleagues, clinical applications for dental topographic analysis.

Dental Microwear

Dental microwear texture analysis is the study of microscopic-scale dental wear surface texture to infer tooth use and diet in fossil species. Our lab has pioneered, with colleagues, the use of white-light confocal profilometry and scale-sensitive fractal analysis for automated characterization of texture patterns related to specific diet types. We have applied this technique to a broad spectrum of mammals, both extant and extinct, to infer diet and reconstruct past environments. We have also developed, with colleagues, clinical applications for dental microwear texture analysis.

Spotlight Publications

SPOTLIGHT PUBLICATIONS


Evolution’s Bite:  A Story of Teeth, Diet, and Human Origins (Japanese Edition)

Peter S. Ungar

Copyright 2019

Hara-Shobo

Publishing Group


Evolution’s Bite:  A Story of Teeth, Diet, and Human Origins  (Chinese Edition)

Peter S. Ungar

Copyright 2019

Grand China

Publishing Group


Teeth: A Very Short Introduction

Peter S. Ungar

ISBN: 0199670595


Teeth:  A Very Short Introduction (Korean Edition)

Peter S. Ungar

Copyright 2018, Munhakdongne Publishing Group


Mammal Teeth: Origin, Evolution, and Diversity

Peter S. Ungar
ISBN: 0801896681


Evolution of the Human Diet

Peter S. Ungar (Ed.)

ISBN: 0195183479