Laboratory Director

Peter Ungar

Peter Ungar

Distinguished Professor and Director of Environmental Dynamics

Curriculum Vitae

National Center for Biotechnology Information:  My Bibliography

Peter Ungar received his PhD in Anthropological Sciences from Stony Brook University and taught Gross Anatomy in the medical schools at Johns Hopkins and Duke before moving to the University of Arkansas, where he now serves as Distinguished Professor and Director of the University of Arkansas Environmental Dynamics Doctoral Program.  He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars.

Ungar has written or coauthored more than 175 scientific works on ecology and evolution for books and journals including Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Journal of the Royal Society, Interface. These have focused mostly on diet in living primates, feeding adaptations, and food choice in human ancestors and other fossil species. He has also edited or co-edited three volumes on human evolution, and is author of Mammal Teeth: Origin, Evolution, and Diversity (winner the 2010 PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers for best book in the biological sciences). His recently published titles, Teeth: A Very Short Introduction and Evolution’s Bite:  A Story of Teeth, DIet, and Human Origins are available on bookstore shelves and online retailers.

Graduate Students and Post-doctoral Researchers

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Elicia Abella

Elicia Abella

Doctoral Student

Elicia is interested in examining food competition among sympatric species of Old World monkeys and apes in Indonesia. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how these primate species partition their environment during seasonal shifts. She hopes to use behavioral, geospatial, and botanical data to distinguish seasonal dental microwear patterns in extant primates. Moreover, she plans to use primate behavioral and community ecological models as a comparison to assess interactions among sympatric fossil primates. Elicia has participated in field excavations and surveys at Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli, and has also excavated in South Africa at the Gondolin cave site. In addition to her paleoanthropological work, she has conducted public health and water sustainability fieldwork in the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Her research interests also include primate community ecology, niche partitioning, interspecific competition, and cercopithecoid evolution. She is the 2015 Dental Anthropology Association’s Albert A. Dahlberg Prize recipient for her student paper on “Morphological Affinities of Recently Discovered Fossil Cercopithecids from the Pliocene Upper Laetolil Beds in Laetoli, Tanzania” presented at the 2015 American Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting in St. Louis. Elicia teaches Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Drills and has taught Introduction to Biological Anthropology Labs at the University of Arkansas. Currently, she is participating in research projects on dental microwear textures of fossil cercopithecoids and hominins.

  • OTHER GRADUATE INSTITUTION: University of Colorado Denver (M.A. in Anthropology)
  • UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: The Pennsylvania State University (B.S. in Biological Anthropology)
Jenny Burgman

Jenny Burgman

Doctoral Candidate

Jenny’s interest in the sciences can be dated back to her first memory of visiting the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) as a toddler. She has since explored different fields, including a high school internship at Rockefeller University’s biophysics lab, a college internship studying marine mammal behavior at the New York Aquarium, and most recently, a six month duration spent at Tel Aviv University in Israel working for a classical archaeologist, followed by time volunteering within the invertebrate department of the AMNH. Along the way, she obtained degrees in anthropology, biology, and coastal environmental studies. Currently, Jenny is working towards her Ph.D. in Environmental Dynamics and a recipient of the Doctoral Academy Fellowship award from the University of Arkansas. She teaches Introduction to Biological Anthropology Lab and is currently conducting research on the utilization of rodent microwear as a climate proxy. Her interests include human evolution and behavioral ecology, focusing specifically on early Homo exploitation of coastal environments and hominin diets.

  • OTHER GRADUATE INSTITUTION: Duke University (M.E.M. in Coastal Environmental Studies)
  • UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: Brandeis University (B.A. in Anthropology and Biology, minor Classical Studies)
Li-Cheng Hua

Li-Cheng Hua

Research Affiliate

Li-Cheng is a visiting graduate student from Southwest Jiatong University in China. He is a part of the prestigious Tribology Research Institute in Chengdu, and is helping to stimulate collaborations between the institute and the University of Arkansas in the research domain of dental ultrasound engineering and nanowear. His research focuses on the mechanical properties and microstructure of mammalian teeth. He is also interested in tooth wear, tooth friction and tooth structure.

  • GRADUATE INSTITUTION: Southwest Jiaotong University (Biotribology)
  • UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: Southwest Jiaotong University (B.A. in Mechanical Engineering)
Alexandria Peterson

Alexandria Peterson

Doctoral Student

Alexandria graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2014 with an honors distinction in Anthropology. She served as a TA for Human Osteology and assisted the Biological Anthropology Teaching Laboratory in other projects, including skeletal analysis for the Repatriation Department at the Field Museum. Her senior year, she was awarded the Provost Fellowship by Loyola’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and traveled to the Ungar Lab to do research for her honors thesis. Her research used metric and non- metric traits that found a set of teeth labeled Meganthropus to be Homo erectus, and compared microwear data to other populations engaged in non-dietary tooth use behaviors. Additionally, she presented her research at Loyola’s Undergraduate Research and Engagement Symposium and the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium (CAURS). Her research interests include diet and behavioral reconstruction of early hominins, particularly Homo erectus, using DMTA. She is currently a TA for the Intro to Biological Anthropology Lab.

  • UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: Loyola University Chicago (B.S. in Anthropology and B.A. in Classical Civilizations)
Brian Sparr

Brian Sparr

Masters Student

Having had a long fascination with human evolution in general, Brian fell in love with fieldwork after getting his hands dirty at the 2015 Swartkrans Archaeology Field School and decided to pursue an academic career in paleoanthropology. He has since worked as an excavation assistant for the Stock Cove Project in Newfoundland and has also presented at the Central States Anthropological Society’s Annual Meeting, where he talked about the public misunderstanding of “facts and fads” of the human diet. Brian’s research interests include fossil hominin diet and ecology, and he has a deep interest in both pedagogy and public outreach to increase public scientific literacy.

  • UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: Eastern Illinois University(B.A. in Sociology with minors in Anthropology and Biology
Liam Zachary

Liam Zachary

Doctoral Student

Liam is interested in using the methods of dental anthropology to understand hominid paleobiology and paleoecology. More specifically, he is interested in reconstructing hominid feeding behaviors through the study of dental microwear and functional aspects of tooth shape. Liam has taken part in archaeological excavations in the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz he was a research assistant for the Tijeras Pueblo Project, and conducted archaeological fieldwork at historical monuments on campus. While at Leiden University, he conducted research using the collections curated by its Laboratory for Osteology. This research dealt with dental modification and health in recent archaeological populations. He has presented original research at the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology in 2015, and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in 2016. He was also a contributor to the PLOS student blog in 2015. Liam is a recipient of the Doctoral Academy Award Fellowship from the University of Arkansas.

  • OTHER GRADUATE INSTITUTION: Leiden University (M.S. Archaeology)
  • UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: University of California, Santa Cruz (B.A. in Anthropology and History

Undergraduates and Post-Baccalaureate Researchers

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Cara Coffman

Cara Coffman

Honors Student

Cara Coffman is an Honors College Fellow and Arkansas Alumni Scholar from Sugar Land, TX. Cara is majoring in honors biology with a pre-dental concentration, and plans to attend dental school after completing her undergraduate degree. She is an Honors College Ambassador, a member of the Pre-Dental Society, a member of Delta Gamma Fraternity, and sits on the Public Relations Committee of University Programs as Director of Marketing. She volunteers at WelcomeHealth’s free extraction clinic, as well as with Helping Hands Open Hearts and Natural Teeth, a local non-profit that gives dental hygiene seminars to elementary school students right here in Washington County.
Josie Dubois

Josie Dubois

Honors Student

Josie is a honors biology major from Fayetteville, Arkansas and is focusing on pre-dentistry. Josie serves as the Vice President of Organization for Kappa Kappa Gamma and has also served as the assistant philanthropy chair. She is also a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and has been an SI leader for University Chemistry I. Josie volunteers weekly at a local elementary school where she works with children on their reading and writing skills and is also a volunteer with Natural Teeth- an organization that teaches elementary students the importance of dental hygiene.  Her honors thesis work involves analysis of the dental microwear of canids from the Pleistocene fossil site of Předmostí in the Czech Republic.  Her results could have important implications for our understanding the domestication of dogs.
Dylan Elkington-Stauss

Dylan Elkington-Stauss

Honors Student

Dylan is an honors college student from Fayetteville, Arkansas currently double majoring in anthropology and biology and is on a pre-medical track with an interest in internal medicine. He also regularly volunteers in the Emergency Department at the Veterans Healthcare of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. Dylan’s thesis work is a continuation of research on extant bovid species and a quantitative comparison of dental topography as a tool for reconstructing diet.
Gracie Engelkes

Gracie Engelkes

Honors Student

Gracie is an honors pre-dental student from Conway Arkansas with a major in Biology. She is a member of the Pre- Dental Society, Gamma Beta Phi Honors Society, and Kappa Kappa Gamma where she served on the Academic Committee. She is also an honors college student ambassador and a Dean’s Signature Scholar. Outside of the classroom, Gracie volunteers at Washington Elementary School.  Her honors thesis work involves a comparison of surface textures of wear grooves on human teeth from an in vitro study of different toothbrushes and toothpastes to assess effects of bristle hardness and paste abrasiveness.  This could have important implications for dental hygiene protocols.

Brett Ironside

Brett Ironside

Honors Student

Brett is an honors biology major from Little Rock, Arkansas, studying with a focus in pre-med. She is a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medical Honor Society, Golden Key Society, Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, as well as a Chancellor’s and Governor’s Distinguished Scholar. Brett also volunteers weekly at the Highland Oncology Group Cancer Center, assisting patients in the chemo room, and at Horses for Healing, aiding special needs children during their horseback therapy rides.  Brett’s honors thesis research involves the study of dental microwear in a sample of deer (cervids) from the Pleistocene of Romania, with an eye toward reconstructing past environments in this part of Europe.
Anna Moriarty

Anna Moriarty

Honors Student

Anna is a pre-medical honors student from Coppell, Texas majoring in Anthropology and Biology. She plays piccolo in the Razorback Marching Band and is a Student Ambassador. Anna’s thesis work focuses on a project to document molar topography in non-human primates to determine whether wear-related changes in tooth shape affect microwear patterning.
James Needy

James Needy

Honors Student

James is an honors student from Fayetteville, Arkansas studying Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in pre-dental. He is a Chancellor’s and Governor’s Distinguished Scholar as well as a member of the pre-dental society on campus. He is also a weekly volunteer at the WelcomeHealth restorative and extraction clinics. James’ research plan is to compare the incisor microwear textures of two extinct  hominin species, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus, in order to learn more about their respective diets.

Grace Roberts

Grace Roberts

Honors Student

Grace Roberts is a freshman Bodenhamer fellow from Memphis, Tennessee. Currently on a premed track, she plans to double major in biology and anthropology. She is involved with Lead Hogs, Honors College Ambassadors, and a new RSO currently being developed that will focus on marine conservation.
Taylor Spillers

Taylor Spillers

Honors Student

Taylor is an honors biology major with a minor in Spanish and a pre-law focus. Her career aspiration is to be an attorney for criminal or malpractice lawsuit cases.  She is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, and served on their philanthropy council for breast cancer awareness.  She is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity.  Taylor’s thesis work focuses on comparing incisor microwear textures of various African apes — chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas — to determine whether differences in their ingestive behaviors are reflected in variation in microwear patterning.

Current Guest Researchers

people > current guest researchers

Sam Arman

Doctoral Candidate at Flinders University (Australia)

Maria Ana Correia

Doctoral Student at University of Cambridge

Ignacio Lazagabaster

Doctoral Student at Arizona State University

Carrie Mongle

Doctoral Student at Stony Brook University

Brian Shearer

Doctoral Student at City University of New York

Alumni

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Kristen Krueger

Assistant Professor at Loyola University Chicago

Gildas Merceron (Post Doc, 2004-2005)

Professor at University of Poitiers (France)

Francis Kirera

Assistant Professor at Mercer University Medical School

Anna Ragni

Ph.D. Student at AMNH Richard Gilder Graduate School

Blaine W. Schubert

Director, Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology
Curator of Vertebrates, ETSU Museum of Natural History
Associate Professor at East Tennessee State University

Jessica Scott

Assistant Director Donaghey Scholars Program
Adjunct Professor at University of Arkansas, Little Rock

Robert Scott (Post Doc, 2004-2007)

Associate Professor at Rutgers University

Jackson Spradley

Graduate Student at Duke University

Elizabeth Weiss

Professor at San José State University

Mariel Williams

Graduate Student at Harvard University

Charles Withnell

Graduate Student at the University of Texas

Melissa Zolnierz

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences Joplin Anatomy Laboratory Director

Other Research Collaborators

home > people > other research collaborators

Nico Avenant (National Museum, Bloemfontein)

Chris Brown (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)
Alyssa Crittenden (University of Nevada- Las Vegas)
Frank Cuozzo (University of North Dakota)
Lucas Delezene (University of Arkansas)
Larisa DeSantis (Vanderbilt University)
Mikael Fortelius (University of Helsinki)
Geoff Gerstner (University of Michigan)
Fred Grine (SUNY Stony Brook)
Grant Gully (Flinders University)
Anderson Hara (Indiana University)

Frank Lippert (Indiana University)
Gavin Prideaux (Flinders University)
Lin-Mao Qian (Southwest Jiaotong University)
Michelle Sauther (University of Colorado)
Matt Sponheimer (University of Colorado)
Mark Teaford (Touro University)

Jing Xia (Southwest Jiaotong University)
Nayuta Yamashita (University of Veterinary Medicine- Vienna)
Jing Zheng (Southwest Jiaotong University)
Zhong-Rong Zhou (Southwest Jiaotong University)