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Interested in joining the lab?   We welcome students interested in learning more about ape and human evolution and/or functional anatomy, learning new techniques, and working with our team.  Students looking to earn a PhD can apply through MU's Integrative Anatomy program (also check out the Integrative Anatomy Students' Association).  Undergraduates can work with us through include sponsored research programs through campus (e.g. LSUROP, McNair, honor's thesis programs, etc.), volunteering, doing research for course credit, or occasionally there are paid employment opportunities.  Email Dr. Ward for more information.

Graduate Students

Nadine Steer is the newest member of the Ward Lab.  She came to Mizzou in Fall of 2022, after completing her undergraduate and masters' degrees at the University of Kent where she worked on carpal morphology in hominoids.  She plans to continue her interest in the function and evolution of the hominin hand using the contrast-enhanced imaging and biomechanical workflow being developed in the Integrative Anatomy group at MU and in the Ward Lab.  Even though she has only been with us a year, she has presented her research at her first American

Association of Biological Anthropologists, has been

getting involved in public science outrach, and

is involved in writing up two manuscripts on

human and comparative hand morphology using

contrast-enhanced imaging.  Nadine originally hails

from Malaysia, but is adapting well to life in

Columbia, Missouri.


Mara Fields joined the Ward Lab as of Fall 2020, and endured starting graduate school during quarantine with style.  Mara is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and an MU Life Sciences Fellow who came to us from Baylor University.  She is originally from Oklahoma City.  At Baylor, Mara was a scholar in the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program where she studied the ecological energetics of robust australopiths and evaluate ancestry of skeletal remains using orbital shape.  She had an NSF REU field school project through Texas State conducting

archeological excavations at a plantation site on St. Eustatius in the Caribbean and studied the evidence fortobacco and pipe use among soldiers stationed there. She was also involved in analyzing data from a long term human biology study on stress and health in a rural village in Dominica.  She was also active in Native Exlorers helping promote Native American culture and interest in STEM fields.  Mara will be applying the 3D musculoskeletal soft tissue imaging and analysis to study the evolution of grasping capabilities in the foot of grasping capabilities to better understand the locomotor evolution of apes and early hominins.  She already has been involved in pilot work on primate hands and has presented this work at two professional conferences already.  Mara loves animals (even working with lab specimens!) and is great with dogs.

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Austin Lawrence is in his fifth year at MU.   Austin obtained his BA in anthropology from

the University of Colorado.  He is interested in hip joint morphology and orientation in human evolution and its relation to hip joint morphology, performance and dysfunction.  His dissertation research will evaluate anatomic compensation and kinematic performance with respect fo variation in femoral version in modern humans, one of the most variable aspects of the human postcranial skeleton and often used as an indicator of behavior and performance in the fossil and archeological records.  Austin will combine novel standing radiologic imaging that allows him to quantify morphology in 3D with analysis of locomotor kinematics the same people in the Mizzou Motion Analysis Center, so that he can explore the functional consequences of anatomical variations in the hip and lower limb.  His research is funded by the Leakey Foundation.  Austin joined the West Turkana Paleo Project's recent rainy but productive field season at Lomekwi, Kenya.  He has done field research in Tanzania and South Africa, and is collaborating on descriptions of new hominin fossils from Laetoli.  Austin's pseudonyms include Larry and Al, and he is known about the department for asking broad, sweeping questions especially right at the end of the day.

Undergraduate Research

Ward lab undergrads are the best.  We have had many students working in the lab helping collect data and segment CT scans and more. Four of our undergrads have presented their original research at professional meetings at professional meetings such as the American Association of Anatomists and American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and on campus at Life Sciences Week and the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Forum.  

Annie Wallach presented her research "Thoracic vertebral morphology and locomotor adaptation in anthropoids primates" at the American Association of Anatomists meeting.  Blake was also awarded the "2016 Award for Excellence in Research in Life Sciences" at MU award in 2016.  Annie also went to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016 to work with Faye on a large faunal database from West Turkana in collaboration with Carol et al.

Ward Lab hits the AAA 2016 meeting in San Diego:  Blake, Faye, Emily, Carol, Morgan & Nathan.

Blake's poster was a bit behind a large pole, and apparently he thought Morgan's practice talk by the pool was a bit boring....

Blake Sarrazin, now a third year medical student at Mizzou, presented his research "Thoracic vertebral morphology and locomotor adaptation in anthropoids primates" at the American Association of Anatomists meeting.  Blake was also awarded the "MU Outstanding Junior in Biological Sciences" award in 2016.  

Nathan Bauer presented his research "Dental wear, molar shape and diet in earliest Australopithecus" at the American Association of Anatomists meeting.

Morgan Alwell presented her research "Sternum morphology and locomotor adaptation in anthropoids primates" at the American Association of Anatomists meeting.  She has graduated, and is now working with Sharon to segment CT and surface scan images of primate tarsal bones, in addition to working as an EMT, training other EMTs, and is currently a medical student at Des Moines University.

Sharon Kuo joined the lab in the Fall of 2014.  She came to us with an M.S. in forensic anthropology from Mercyhurst University, and before that received her B.A. in anthropology from Boston University where she worked on trabecular architecture in the calcaneus in relation to the presence of an Achilles tendon.  She has studied feather rachis strength in penguins and an Australopithecus afarensis metatarsal from Hadar, Ethiopia.  Sharon is most interested in the functional morphology of the hominoid foot.   Her dissertation research combined some of the first-ever XROMM images from a macaque during locomotion with morphometrics and comparative analysis to explore tarsal joint motion and function during locomotion.  She is also describing original Miocene fossils of Oreopithecus, Afropithecus and new specimens from Napudet.  She has been to the field in Kenya with the West Turkana Paleo Project at the Pliocene site of Kanapoi, and has worked as an instructor for the Koobi Fora Field School.  

Ward Lab Integrative Anatomy program alumni

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Dr. Ashley Hammond
Assistant Curator of Biological Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History
Assistant Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Ashley Hammond joined MU after completing an MA and BA

from Florida Atlantic University.  Her dissertation research

manipulated 3D polygonal models of pelves and femora to

reconstruct hip joint mobility in extant primates, and

validated her work using live animals.  She has applied this

work to understanding locomotor adaptation in Miocene

hominoids.  Since graduate school, she joined the faculty of the Koobi Fora Field School as their biological anthropologist, and published widely on Oligocene primates, early modern humans, hip joint soft tissue anatomy in modern apes, neandertals, and more.  Ashley spends weeks in the field looking for Plio-Pleistocene fossils in East Turkana, Kenya.  She completed postdoctoral positions at Stony Brook University and George Washington University, and is now at the AMNH.


Elizabeth Moffett completed her dissertation in 2016 on sexual dimorphism of the primate pelvis in relation to both obstetric adaptation and body size dimorphism using 3D methods, and studying the effects of obstetric selection on pelvic form in anthropoids.  Elizabeth has published on sexual dimorphism of the sacrum in extant primates and on quantifying fontanelles in human infants. Before coming to the Elizabeth received her B. A. in Anthropology at Louisiana State University in 2011.  She joined us in the field at Kanapoi in 2013.  At the end of her program at MU, she also served as an Instructor at Stony Brook University teaching anatomy.  She now teaches anatomy at Rocky Vista in Colorado.

Dr. Elizabeth Moffett
Assistant Professor
Rocky Vista College of Osteopathic Medicine
Dr. Sharon Kuo
Research Assistant
Department of Anthropology
The Pennsylvania State University


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Faye McGechie is completing her final year as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago working with Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged, and will be starting work as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix summer 2022.  In graduate school, Faye held an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship as well as an MU Life Sciences Fellowship.  Faye completed an undergraduate honor’s thesis there on the ontogeny of the cranial base in humans.  Faye also has worked on developmental cascades in the development of dentition, the paleoecology of Anapithecus at Rudabanya, Hungary, novel non-landmark based metric analyses of extant and fossil hominoid elbows, and is helping describe new Miocene apes from Napudet, Kenya.  She aattended field schools in Ethiopia and South Africa, and was part of the field team at Lomekwi. Faye's dissertation research used novel 3D digital methods to study the internal

geometry and biomechanics of nuchal muscles in

anthropoid primates with different head, neck and

body postures to better understand the evolution of t

he neck and neck posture in early hominins.  Faye also

especially enjoys crossfit, cats, cats, cats, and 

accessorizing animals.


Eden Mackereth completed her MS degree in Integrative Anatomy Fall 2021, and will begin medical school in Northern Ontario next year.  Eden braved coming to our country from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, during quarantine, no less, and was an Integrative Anatomy Fellow here at Mizzou.  At Lakehead, she worked with Dr. Matt Tocheri analyzing the three-dimensional shape variation in the navicular and the trapezium of hominoids using 3D geometric morphometrics.  At Missouri she extended her interest in the hand and completed the first-ever analysis of the 3D biomechanics of the thenar musculature of a chimp and a human, which has served as pilot data for all of our upcoming lab projects.  She attended a field school in Tanzania studying ecology, and has participated in anthropological field school in Ontario and archeological field school in Italy.  Eden is a synchronized swimmer and is proficient at talking about the Canadian fur trade in French.  

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