Physical (Biological) Anthropology
Head of Lab: Dr Varsha Pilbrow
Phone (office): +61 3 8344 5775
Phone (lab): +61 3 8344 8552
Room (office): E526
Room (lab): E506
Varsha Pilbrow completed her PhD in Biological Anthropology from New York University, USA under the supervision of Terry Harrison. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University with Bernard Wood and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with Steve Leigh and Paul Garber. She joined the University of Melbourne as a Research Fellow in 2006 and is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience. Varsha’s research interests lie in understanding the processes that govern the diversification of populations into subspecies and species, and in seeking the morphological, especially dental correlates of this evolutionary process. She specializes in the dental morphology of the living apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and gibbons, and is currently working on a project developing models based on apes to address questions relating to the taxonomy and phylogeny of fossil hominids. Varsha is also involved in a bioarchaeology research project in the Republic of Georgia, studying the physical anthropology of human skeletal remains from archaeological sites at the cross-roads of major human migration routes.
How humans evolved is a question that fascinates lay people and scientists alike. The question is often seeped in controversy, largely because ancestral human fossil remains are rare and consist primarily of teeth and other skeletal elements that fossilize well. A major question then is: how much reliance can be placed on observations from such scant evidence for reconstructing the evolutionary relationships among our fossil ancestors?
Research in our laboratory focuses on determining the importance of hard-tissue anatomy for studying human evolution. In particular, we study the evidence for gene flow, genetic admixture and evolutionary diversification through dental morphology and skeletal morphology.
Research is conducted in the lab but also involves travel to museums around the world, and participation in palaeoanthropological and archaeological fieldwork in Africa, Europe and Asia.