I am a biologist/bioanthropologist interested in the genetic and ecological context for human adaptation. My research in population genetics investigates questions about human sensory ecology and evolutionary adaptation with regards to the human sense of smell. Previous research in paleobiology focused on measures of adaptation via developmental stability and resilience.
As humans, we engage with the environment directly via our senses, which are refined by evolution through behavioral interactions with ecological settings. Through these interactions, sensory filters evolve to differentiate species’ perceptual worlds; through this unwelt, we obtain information about food, mates, social interactions, and danger. I am particularly interested in olfaction as a mechanism for obtaining this information. My work explores how olfaction functions in humans from both modern and evolutionary perspectives. I aim to disrupt the commonly accepted notion that our sense of smell is not useful. Within the theoretical frames provided by evolutionary anthropology and sensory ecology, I use the tools of population genetics to address a few main questions: what was adaptive in our genus, have we diverged within the genus, is there a human-specific adaptation with behavioral components, and how are modern urban lifestyles shaping future adaptations.