“Ankles and Adaptation: From Gorillas to Gazelles”
Rachel Dunn, Ph.D.
Dr. Dunn is a new faculty member and researcher here at Des Moines University. She is a paleontologist, and her research focuses on trying to understand the diversity of past life. She got her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology at Washington University it 2009. Her dissertation focused on the skeletal remains of mammals from 40-45 million years ago (ma) and how their adaptations changed in response to changing climate.
As a part of her Ph.D. training she has done field work aimed at collecting fossil mammals from the Eocene Epoch (55-32 ma) in Utah, Wyoming, and Egypt. After completing her Ph.D., Rachel spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in the Functional Anatomy and Evolution program where she was involved in describing the first postcranial remains of the oldest primate in North America, Teilhardina brandti. In addition, Dr. Dunn was a part of a team effort to describe a new mammalian fauna from the earliest Eocene of Wyoming that lived during one of the most rapid global warming events known in the geological record.
More recently, her research has centered around how the skeleton reflects the interaction between an animal and its habitat. Dr. Dunn is particularly interested in using 3D polygonal models of ankle and wrist bones to answer questions about the ecology of mammals. She has applied this method to gorillas and most recently, to artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates) as part of an ongoing project.
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