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Faculty Research Highlights

Faculty in our department are leading research projects on a wide range of different topics. Here are some of the news stories about their research on the human condition. 

Jeffrey McKee

Jeffrey McKee, professor of anthropology, is lead author of a new study finding that ongoing global growth in the human population will inevitably crowd out mammals and birds and has the potential to threaten hundreds of species with extinction within 40 years. “The data speak loud and clear that not only human population density, but the growth of the human population, is still having an effect on extinction threats to other species,” said McKee. McKee and his team—including undergraduate Julia Guseman and former graduate student Erica Chambers—determined that the average growing nation should expect at least 3.3 percent more threatened species in the next decade and an increase of 10.8 percent species threatened with extinction by 2050. The United States ranks sixth in the world in the number of new species expected to be threatened by 2050, the research showed. The study, Human Population Density and Growth Validated as Extinction Threats to Mammal and Bird Species, is published in the journal Human Ecology. Read the full article.


Photo of Dr. Kris Gremillion

Kris Gremillion, associate professor, anthropology, is the author of a new book, Ancestral Appetites: Food in Prehistory (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which explores how humans have adjusted the food they eat and the way they prepare it in response to new knowledge and new environments. While there is much we can learn from what our ancestors ate, many of our more modern foods and diets were developed for very good reasons, said Gremillion. “Human dietary behavior can’t be reduced just to our biology. Culture has always played a part in what we eat and how we eat it. And people have always been innovating, finding new foods to eat and new ways to prepare them. There’s no way to say that there’s only one way we are supposed to eat.” Read the story.

Richard Yerkes

Richard Yerkes, professor of anthropology, is lead author of a new study on how early humans interacted with their changing environment especially at times of extreme climate change. Yerkes, along with Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University, conducted a study of an archaeological site outside Jerusalem. They found that around 8,000 B.C., villagers added heavy-duty axes and began to clear forests for fields and grazing lands until these activities seem to have led to land degradation and a related transition to a colder, drier climate around 6,600 to 6,000 BC. The samples from this site provide valuable information about how early humans interacted with their changing environment and were able to establish sustainable resource management systems. Read the story.


Richard Yerkes

Richard Yerkes, professor of archaeology, was awarded a NSF grant of $149,991 for his project, "IRES: U.S.-Hungarian-Greek Collaborative International Research Experience for Students on Origins and Development of Prehistoric European Villages." The grant will allow Ohio State undergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to join an international research team led by Yerkes and co-PIs, William A. Parkinson of the Field Museum and Attila Gyucha of the Cultural Heritage Field Service, Hungary in a study of prehistoric agricultural villages on the Great Hungarian Plain. Understanding these prehistoric processes is critical for learning about the development of urbanization, territoriality, and social stratification. Yerkes and his team will document the establishment and development of early agricultural societies in this region and develop a model that will help us understand the emergence of economic and political complexity elsewhere in the world. Read the story.

Julie Field

 Julie Field, an associate professor in anthropology, co-authored a study with David Rose and Tim Gocha, both graduate researchers in the Department of Anthropology. The study is based upon Rose’s MA thesis, which sought to determine whether the patterns of change inside the bones of human remains could reveal how the bones were used during life. “Our bones adapt to the load that’s placed on them. Patterns of tension and compression show up in our internal bone structure, and this software lets us look at those patterns in a new way,” Rose said.  Read the story.


Smiling dark haired bearded man

Jeffrey Cohen, associate professor of anthropology and a leading expert on migration and its effects in developing countries, along with Ibrahim Sirkeci (Regent's College London) and Dilip Ratha (Migration and Remittances Unit, World Bank), authored a new World Bank Report analyzing how remittances and migrant worker behavior were affected by the economic crisis of 2008. The report, Migration and Remittances during the Global Financial Crisis and Beyond, was produced with support of External Affairs, the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, and the Development Prospects Group at the World Bank. Read the article.


Excavating a medieval cemetary

Clark Spencer-Larsen, professor and chair, anthropology; and Hendrik Poinar, evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada joined Science contributing correspondent Ann Gibbons, for a Science LIVE web chat about their ambitious project to document 1000 years of sickness and health in people buried since the year 1039 in one graveyard at the Badia Pozzeveri Churchyard near Lucca, Italy. Read the story.


Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg

Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, professor of anthropology, is co-author of a new dental study of fossilized remains found in South Africa in 2008 that provides support that this species is one of the closest relatives to early humans. The teeth of this species–an ancient offshoot of the human family tree called Australopithecus sediba indicate that it is also a close relative to the previously identified Australopithecus africanus. Both of these species are clearly more closely related to humans than other australopiths from east Africa, according to the new research. Read the story.


Scott McGraw

W. Scott McGraw, professor of anthropology, is co-author of a new study finding that endangered primates in national parks and forest reserves of Ivory Coast are facing extinction because of illegal cocoa farms. The study appears in the March 2015 issue of the journal Tropical Conservation Science. The impact of illegal cocoa farming on primates has been devastating; 13 of the protected areas have lost their entire primate populations, while another five had lost half of their species. Read the story.


Mark Hubbe.

Mark Hubbe, associate professor, anthropology, is part of a multinational team of researchers; including Brazilians, Argentines, Germans and North Americans, dedicated to reconstructing the initial steps of humankind into the Americas. This team has been excavating and studying the early sites from the Lagoa Santa region in Central Brazil. Read the story.

Clark Spencer Larsen

Clark Larsen, Distinguished University Professor,  collaborated with 55 other authors on the development of eight articles for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Contributions to a Special Issue of PNAS focus on the daunting challenges to health and well-being that began some 10,000 years ago with the transition from diets based exclusively on hunting and gathering to diets and lifeways based on farming.   Studies of human remains from archaeological contexts worldwide by the 57 authors involved in writing the articles reveal the daunting challenges to health and well-being globally owing to population increase from some 10 million occupying the globe 10,000 years ago to the current 8 billion (and rapidly rising), all of whom are dependent on domesticated plant carbohydrates, especially corn, rice, and wheat.  These plants have significant nutritional deficiencies yet are fundamental to sustaining of the world population and its growth in the 21st century and for the foreseeable future.  Challenges to health and well-being also include the rise in older infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, leprosy, plague, hepatitis, cholera, and treponemal disease, and newly-emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 and a suite of other viral infections.  Owing to population increase in size and density, conflict and warfare, and challenges generally, most of the globe’s current inhabitants and descendants will be facing health concerns for the foreseeable future.