Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology
Departments of Anthropology and Biology
Affiliated Faculty, Women's Gender and Sexuality Program
232 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
Stone Science Building, Room 247E
675 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
caschmit [at] bu [dot] edu
+1 (617) 353 - 5026
Sensory Morphology and Genomic Anthropology Lab (SMGAL)
Stone Science Building, Room 251
675 Commonwealth Ave
I am Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology, and co-director with Dr. Eva Garrett of the Sensory Morphology and Genomic Anthropology Lab (SMGAL) at Boston University. My central research questions involve primate development and life history and incorporate techniques from behavioral ecology, morphology, and genomics in two primate models: New World atelins and Old World vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.).
I use biomedical and genomics-based methodologies to better understand primate development. Through intensive fieldwork across Africa and the Caribbean with the International Vervet Research Consortium I have collected biological samples from over two thousand wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.). I collaborate on projects ranging from the evolution and pathogenicity of SIV in wild vervets (published in PLOS Pathogens and the Journal of Virology), to genome-wide variation and gene-expression in relation to health phenotypes (published in Nature Genetics). You can learn more about the diversity of the research program in my book, Savanna Monkeys: The Genus Chlorocebus, now available at Cambridge University Press.
My core project involves the genomics of obesity during development, currently being conducted with captive vervets (Chlorocebus sabaeus) at Wake Forest University. I am using over 700 fully sequenced and pedigreed individuals to run linkage analyses on obesity phenotypes. My work, recently published in the International Journal of Obesity, shows that vervets have significant and high heritability of obesity phenotypes and evidence of significantly different developmental trajectories in chronically obese and non-obese adults. Furthermore, the genomic regions associated with these obesity phenotypes appear to be the same associated with metabolic disorders in humans. This work also found a significant influence of maternal diet during gestation on growth and adult-onset obesity in male vervets, suggesting maternal programming of offspring fat deposition consistent with the thrifty phenotype hypothesis. In collaboration with the Center for Precision Medicine, I am investigating this more closely by analyzing patterns of RNAseq-based gene expression and methylation in the skeletal muscle and adipose tissue of vervets gestated on and exposed to varying diets.
As part of this project, I am also looking for evidence of selection and ecogeographic variation in these phenotypes and genotypes in our extensive wild sample, assessing variability in phenotype expression and population-specific selection based on local ecology and anthropogenic impacts. We have already found evidence of selection for body mass and growth phenotypes across vervet monkeys consistent with Bergmann's and Allen's Rules (recenty published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology), and, with my graduate student Christian Gagnon, will be looking for evidence of genomic and gene expression variation consistent with these patterns. The core of this aspect of my work involves comparative sampling of vervet growth, genomics and health phenotypes from wild populations two field sites: Soetdoring Nature Reserve, where vervets eat natural forage, and a private farm near !Gariep Dam, where vervets are provisioned with human and agricultural feed, both in the Free State of South Africa. Field work for these projects is ongoing, and can be followed on social media at #BUvervets16, #BUvervets17, and #BUvervets18.
For more information, and information on other research projects and collaborators, please follow the links above or you can contact me by email. If you still want to learn more, I also have a rather robust social media presence.
- 09 November 2020: Our new paper is out in Microbiome, on Shifts in microbial diversity, composition, and functionality in the gut and genital microbiome during a natural SIV infection in vervet monkeys. You can see the video abstract here.
- 26 June 2020: Our new paper is out in PLoS ONE on variation in ACE2 and TMPRSS2 (the genes coding for the two primary receptors for SARS-CoV-2) in wild and captive vervet monkeys. You can see an overview of the paper on this Twitter thread.
- 20 June 2020: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has won a University of Washington Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics Scholarship to learn bioinformatics techniques that will help with her planned dissertation research.
- 20 June 2020: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has had an abstract accepted to present her Masters research results at the American Museum of Natural History's Student Conference on Conservation Science in New York. The conference will be held virtually in October, 2020.
- 16 May 2020: Anthropology B.A. student Morgan Farrar has won the Outstanding Scholarship in Anthropology Award.
- 16 May 2020: Anthropology B.A. Honors student Becca De Camp has won the Research Excellence in Anthropology Award.
- 14 May 2020: Biology M.S. student and Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has won the Denton Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis in Biology for her thesis, "Predicting Suitable Habitat for the Critically Endangered Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda) in Perú."