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
Temporary Office for Fall 2022 and Spring 2023
232 Bay State Road, Room 424
Boston, MA 02215
Email: caschmit [at] bu [dot] edu
Phone: +1 (617) 353 - 5026
Sensory Morphology and Anthropological Genomics Lab (SMAGL)
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.
- 15 August 2022: PI Christopher Schmitt has published a collaborative paper with Dr. Tesla Monson, Dr. Marianne Brasil, Dr. Michael Mahaney, Cat Taylor, and Dr. Leslea Hlusko in the journal Biology (MDPI) special issue on Paleontology in the 21st Century, Keeping 21st Century Paleontology Grounded: Quantitative Genetic Analyses and Ancestral State Reconstruction Re-Emphasize the Essentiality of Fossils.
- 15 August 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate and PI Christopher Schmitt have been awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation for Mel's dissertation project, Landscape Mitogenomics and High-Altitude Adaptation in the Peruvian Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda)! Congratulations, Mel!
- 8 July 2022: Biology B.A./M.S. alumna Erica Sun will start her new job at Merck working on animal vaccine development this coming week! Congratulations Erica!
- 6 July 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Christian Gagnon has been awarded funds from the Department of Anthropology at Boston University to conduct pilot work validating the conversion of vervet fibroblasts into brown adipocyte-like cells in the lab of Dr. Courtney Babbitt at UMass Amherst. Cell lines were delivered today from UCLA! Good luck, Christian!
- 28 April, 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has been awarded $16,000 from the Boston University long-term Graduate Student Abroad Fellowship! Congratulations, Mel!
- 25 April, 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has has passed her comprehensive exam and advanced to candidacy! Congrats Mel!
- 20 April, 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has been awarded $5,000 from the Primate Action Fund towards her dissertation project, Landscape Mitogenomics and High-Altitude Adaptation in the Peruvian Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda). These funds will help fund field surveys and support a Peruvian field assistant during her dissertation work. Congratulations, Mel!
- 10 April, 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate is on the Waitlist for the Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship for her dissertation project, Landscape Mitogenomics and High-Altitude Adaptation in the Peruvian Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda). Congrats, Mel!
- 4 April, 2022: Biology M.S. student Ben Recchia has received an Honorable Mention for his NSF GRFP proposal! Congratulation, Ben, it’s a huge accomplishment!
21 March, 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Christian Gagnon has passed his dissertation prospectus defense, on The Evolutionary History and Adaptive Significance of UCP1-Mediated Thermogenesis in Primates, and is officially ABD! Congratulations, Christian!
- 15 March, 2022: Biology (General) B.A. student Gianna Grob is a finalist for the position of Scientific Program Analyst at the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH! Congratulations on making it this far, Gianna, and fingers crossed for the final interview!
- 2 March, 2022: Stacy-Anne Parke (B.A. Biological Anthropology, 2019), a SMAGL alumna, has accepted an offer to do her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology at New York University and the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology. She'll be working with Dr. James Higham, Dr. Scott Williams, and Dr. Susan Antón! Congratulations, Stacy!
- 28 February, 2022: Biology (Ecology & Conservation Biology) B.A. student Will Pudlo has won a place on the NSF International Research Experience for Students Program Behavioral Ecology, Demography and Conservation of Primates in the Humid Chaco of Argentina to work with Dr. Eduardo Fernandez-Duque on his Owl Monkey Project in Formosa, Argentina! Congrats, Will!
- 10 February, 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate is a semi-finalist for a Study/Research Fulbright Award to fund her dissertation research on yellow-tailed woolly monkey genetics in Peru! Fingers crossed on the final awards!
- January 2022: Anthropology Ph.D. students Christian Gagnon and Warrenkevin Henderson's review of the 7th Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Evolutionary Primatologists is online now at Evolutionary Anthropology! Congratulations, Christian and Warrenkevin!
- 8 December 2021: Biology B.A./M.S. student Erica Sun has successfully passed her Master's Thesis defense, on "Selection in the PLIN2 (Perilipin-2) Gene Among Wild Savanna Monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.)." Congratulations, Erica!
- 1 December 2021: Former Biology M.S. alumna Laura Angley has accepted a job as the project manager for Project ChimpCARE at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago! Congratulations, Laura!
- 6 July 2021: Biology M.S. student Max Dippel has won the 2021 Global Studies Scholarship from Field Projects International! Max will use this scholarship to participate in FPI's course Genomics in the Jungle III: Herpetofauna of the Amazon. Congratulations, Max!
- 13 May 2021: Biology M.S. student Laura Angley has won the 2021 Denton Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis in Biology for her thesis, "Post-Release Survival Rates and Welfare of Rehabilitated Vervet Monkeys in Malawi." Congratulations, Laura!
- 4 May 2021: Anthropology Ph.D. candidate Christian Gagnon has passed his comprehensive exam and advanced to candidacy! Congrats Christian!
- 28 April 2021: Anthropology Ph.D. student Mel Zarate has won a GSO Travel Award to present her research at the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the International Primatological Society and la Sociedad Latinoamericana de Primates in Quito, Ecuador.
- 12 April 2021: Biology M.S. student Laura Angley has passed her Master's Thesis defense, on "Post-release survival rates and welfare of rehabilitated vervet monkeys in Malawi", with research done in collaboration with the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust! Congrats Laura!