Two Anthropology PhD students receive awards from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

PhD candidates Heather Lawrentz and Rose Leach have each received a fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) to conduct research this summer with faculty at Kyoto University. JSPS is the main government agency supporting science programs in Japan, similar to the NSF in the United States. One of their initiatives is to promote international scientific cooperation through a variety of fellowships, including this summer program created specifically for pre- and post-doctoral students from North America and Europe. Only ~100 awards are given each year; thus, we are especially fortunate that our department received two awards for 2019.

Heather and Rose will work with Dr. Masato Nakatsukasa and Dr. Takeshi Nishimura, experts in the functional morphology and evolution of the primate skeleton.  Under the guidance of Dr. Nakatsukasa, Heather will collect forelimb and hindlimb measurements in Ateles and Colobus. These two lineages diverged from one another over 40 million years ago, yet each genus has independently lost (or greatly diminished) the first manual digit over the course of their evolution. Heather is investigating the role of Hox genes in the minimization of the first digit. Hoxd11 and Hoxd13 compete for overlapping territory in the distal limb, and their cooperation may explain this unique forelimb morphology.


Under the guidance of Dr. Nishimura, Rose will study long bone and thorax phenotypic plasticity in Northern and Southern Japanese macaques with respect to Bergmann and Allen’s rules. She will use morphometric analysis and pQCT scan data to look at differences between skeletal material from these macaques to determine whether clinal shifts covary with any significant skeletal changes. The results of her project will contribute to our understanding of skeletal dynamics in response to climate, specifically the effects of colder temperatures on long bones, and how they relate to determining the basis of morphological differences between anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals.


Heather and Rose will write weekly blogs describing their scientific and cultural experiences in Japan. They will spend their first week in Tokyo for a JSPS-sponsored opening ceremony and orientation, including a two-day visit with a Japanese homestay family. Afterwards, they will spend two months conducting research in their host laboratories in Kyoto and Inuyama City, respectively. Their fellowships commence June 11th, so please check back shortly thereafter for their first reports!

POSTED: Wednesday, April 17, 2019 - 11:59am
UPDATED: Wednesday, April 17, 2019 - 11:59am