Gnanadesikan and Soza Are NSF-GRFP Recipients!

Congratulations to two School of Anthropology graduate students, who are among 2,000 nationwide to earn a Graduate Research Fellowship Program award from the National Science Foundation! The awardees were chosen from a pool of more than 12,000 applicants.

Gita Gnanadesikan (left) received an NSF-GRFP for her proposal “A Longitudinal Epigenomic Association Study of Wild and Domesticated Canine Cognition and Temperament.” Gita’s advisor is Assistant Professor Evan MacLean. Here’s a brief explanation of Gita’s project, or you can read a more complete summary here.

Project Summary: I proposed a longitudinal comparative study of wolves, pet dogs, and service dogs over the first two years of life, investigating their social cognition and behavior, as well as associating these traits with epigenetic profiles and changes over development. This design will clarify the role of gene regulation in shaping an organism’s behavior and cognition, and thus inform our understanding of how these traits evolve. By comparing domestic dogs, wolves, and a population of service dogs that has been selectively bred for behavioral traits that exaggerate features of the domestication, the results should shed light on domestication and similar processes, such as selection against aggression, that are hypothesized to be crucial factors in human evolution.

Danielle Soza (right) was awarded an NSF-GRFP for her project. Danielle, whose advisor is Professor E. Charles Adams, has provided this brief description, or you can read her full abstract here.

Project Summary: Across the U.S. Southwest, preceramic hunter-gatherer archaeology lags well behind research focusing on the advent of agriculture and sedentism. Surveys often yield a wealth of surface evidence of hunter-gatherer presence on the landscape but, lacking stratified sites, this evidence is seldom interrogated. My doctoral research will focus precisely on the systematic study this under-utilized archaeological record: I aim to understand the evolution of Paleoindian and Archaic groups in the Southwest by investigating their colonization of and persistence in this arid landscape.