Graduate Students

Amelia Barker

I am currently enrolled as an MA student in the Department of Archaeology at SFU.  I am interested in cultural transmission processes and the evolutionary analysis of cultural behaviour. I am particularly interested in the evolution of religion and my research is focused on using phylogenetic systematics to test different hypotheses about the development of religious traditions.

Chris Carleton

My interests in archaeology are varied, but the core of my research involves methodology rather than a specific data set. I use various kinds of mathematical models, statistical analyses, and computer-based simulations to get at big-picture questions about the sociocultural evolution of humans over the last 12 to 15 thousand years. My PhD research primarily involves the application of time-series anlaysis in an attempt to understand human responses to climate change using the Maya region as a test case for exploring the methods I will be developing.

Mana Dembo

My research focuses on hominin systematics.  The aim of my PhD research is to improve the reliability of the methods paleoanthropologists use to reconstuct the "phylogenetic" or evolutionary relationships of the fossil hominins.  I am focusing on three main issues: 1) taxon composition, 2) the choice of craniodental characters, and 3) the impact of missing data on the choice of phylogeny building methods.

Gabrielle Jackson

I am interested in applying evolutionary theory to study all aspects of human evolution, from our genes and physiology to language and technology. Currently I am enrolled as an MA student in the Department of Archaeology with a specialization in palaeoanthropology. For my research project I am investigating the role limb proportions play in modern human throwing ability, and using this information to comment on the throwing ability of two groups of extinct hominins: the Australopiths and Neandertals.

Luseadra McKerracher

My research area is human biology, with an emphasis on applying evolutionary ecological theory and methods to questions concerning contemporary public health. I am particularly interested in how women and other female primates allocate energy to reproduction and what trade-offs are involved in allocating energy to one purpose (e.g. continuing to lactate) rather than another (e.g. beginning a new pregnancy or activating an aspect of the immune system).  For my PhD dissertation, I am focusing on weaning.

Leanna Mitchell

I am a PhD student in the Economics department at SFU, supervised by Arthur Robson. My research interest is the evolutionary origins of human preferences, about which I am currently writing two papers. The first is about the economic origins of human beauty features. The second is a collaboration with fellow economics phd student Kevin Chen, entitled Co-operation, Competition, and Linguistic Diversity.

Meg Thibodeau

I’m interested in investigating how we became human. I draw on geoarchaeological and microarchaeological methods, such as micromorphology, FTIR spectroscopy and phytolith analysis, to answer questions about early Homo species and their interactions and adaptations to the environment around them.  In my research, I am investigating evidence of early use of fire at Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa. I will be using FTIR spectroscopy to find quantitative methods of recognizing and interpreting burnt sediments and ashed material within micromorphological samples.

Olga Vasileva

I am broadly interested in the evolution of language, communication and social cognition in humans and primates. I use my background in linguistics and psychology to understand how evolution has shaped human cognitive and linguistic abilities. My current PhD work is focusing on the evolutionary implications of early communicative development, specifically looking at the developmental trajectories of infants’ early communication and how they correspond to the time course of brain lateralization.

Don White

I am interested in the continuing debates between psychology and other disciplines as to what constitutes a valid application of evolutionary theory for developing explanations of human behavior. In my master’s thesis, I examined the role of fitness maximization in evolutionary explanations and how rejection of that principle constrains any explanation based on natural selection.

Fiona Wilson

I am currently enrolled as an MA student in the Linguistics Department at SFU. My area of research is Historical Linguistics. The focus of my research is on using methods from Corpus Linguistics and Biology to test for a correlation between lexical frequency of use and language change over time, using Romance languages as a case study.