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Graduate Students

This information is updated twice yearly. Not all graduate students submit bios.

Andie Ang(BS Life Sciences, 2008 National University of Singapore; MS Biology, 2010 National University of Singapore). Andie’s research interests are in the social behavior and feeding ecology of Asian colobine primates, in particular the threatened and untended species. She has worked on the banded leaf monkeys in Singapore and Malaysia, and the white-handed gibbons in Thailand. Through her research, Andie hopes to contribute to a greater understanding of these charismatic primates and help in their conservation. Some of her work can be found here: www.andieang.org. Her advisor is Bert Covert.
Jessica D. Hedgepeth Balkin(BA Anthropology & History, 2003 Brandeis University; MA Anthropology, 2009 University of Colorado). Hedgepeth Balkin is examining human land use in the Río Verde Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico for her PhD research. She is approaching her analysis through geospatial techniques (GIS). Hedgepeth Balkin also has research interests in ceramic production using statistical and petrographic analysis. Her advisor is Arthur Joyce.
Traci Bekelman(BA Biology, 1998 UC Berkeley; MPH, 2002 Johns Hopkins University; MA Anthropology, 2008 University of Colorado Boulder). Traci studies variation in diet and body size in urban areas in Central America. Thesis title: Evidence for a Positive Secular Trend in Obesity in Colombia. Her advisor is Darna Dufour.
Richard Bender(BA Anthropology, 2005 University of Colorado; MA Anthropology, 2009 University of Colorado). Bender is primarily interested in nutritional anthropology and human biology. His dissertation research focuses on transitions in diet and physical activity, and on field methods for assessing energy expenditure. His advisor is Darna Dufour.
Jeff Brzezinski(BA Anthropology, 2007, University of Florida; MA Anthropology, 2011, University of Central Florida). Jeff specializes in the archaeology of Mesoamerica, particularly southern Mexico. His dissertation research focuses on the collapse and regeneration of early complex societies in coastal Oaxaca during the Terminal Formative period (150 B.C. – A.D. 250). His advisor is Art Joyce.
Alex Cowper(BA Anthropology, 2011 Miami University) Alex Cowper is a MA candidate in biological anthropology. She’s currently interested in the role of climate in early hominin speciation and dispersal patterns and plans to investigate these topics more thoroughly via the coring of ancient lake sediments in east Africa. Cowper’s work has also led her to study modern lake ecology. As a graduate research assistant in a limnology lab, she conducts chemical water quality analyses and microscopy from lake samples collected around the Colorado area. Her advisor is Matt Sponheimer.
Sara Cullen(BA Interdisciplinary Studies: Anthropology, 2005 University of Northern Colorado; MA Southwest Studies: Anthropology, 2011 New Mexico Highlands University). Sara is interested in social identity and regional household-level interactions between communities of the Southern High Plains and northern Rio Grande of the U.S. Southwest, from the late Precolumbian through the early protohistoric period. Her research is focused primarily on the Park Plateau region of southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico. Her advisor is Doug Bamforth.
Rachel Egan(BA Anthropology, 2008 University of Colorado Boulder; MA Anthropology, 2011 University of Central Florida). Rachel’s research area of interest is Mesoamerica with a focus on the ancient Maya. She is interested in the sub-field of geoarchaeology, particularly the interrelationship between human societies and natural disaster. Her advisor is Payson Sheets.
Rachel Fleming(BA Anthropology, 2000 Dartmouth College; Masters Regional Planning, 2005 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; MA Anthropology, 2009 University of Colorado). Rachel’s research is in cultural anthropology, with a focus on urbanization, class mobility, and gender role change for young professional women in Bangalore, India. Her advisor is Carole McGranahan.
Jamie Forde(BA Anthropology, 2002 University of California Santa Cruz; MA Anthropology, 2006 University of Colorado). Forde’s research focuses on the archaeology of central and southern Mexico, particularly Oaxaca, and the interdisciplinary uses of epigraphy and ethnohistory to better understand the transition from Postclassic to Colonial periods. His interests include social theory, ideology and relationships of power, iconographic analysis, and text-aided archaeology. His advisor is Art Joyce.
Allison Formanack(BA Anthropology & History, 2009 University of Nebraska; MA Anthropology, 2011 University of Colorado). Allison’s research considers the extent to which sociocultural ideas about risk, trash, and pollution contribute to material dispossession and stigmatization of vulnerable populations. Specifically, she is interested in how mobile home residents in Lincoln, Nebraska are prefigured by community leaders, political figures, and financiers as “risky” populations subject to removal via mobile home park closures. Her advisor is Carla Jones.
Amy Harrison-Levine(BS Natural Resources/Anthropology, 1992 Michigan State University; MA Anthropology, 1998 Kent State University). Harrison-Levine has participated in a wide range of studies regarding the behavior and ecology of living primates. Her dissertation will focus on human/non-human primate forest resource overlap in Vietnam. Results of this research will help target limited resources to conservation interventions identified as most important for the preservation of the critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. Amy works full time as the Conservation Biology Manager at Denver Zoo. Her co-advisors are Bert Covert and Michelle Sauther.
Jennifer Ida(BA Anthropology, 2012 Wagner College). Jennifer’s research interests lie at the intersection of human and animal health and explore this intersection from a biocultural perspective. Of particular interest to her are the biocultural influences on both perceived and actual risk of zoonotic disease transmission in indigenous communities in Latin America. Her Master’s fieldwork will be conducted with the Wayuu on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, examining traditional veterinary medical systems and animal trafficking, and their resulting influences on community health. Her advisors are Dr. Darna Dufour and Dr. Terry McCabe.
Ben Joffe(BSocSci Social Anthropology and French Language and Literature, 2008 University of Cape Town; MA Social Anthropology 2009 University of Cape Town). Ben has conducted fieldwork around issues of belief and ritual practice in contemporary occultism, magic(k) and Neo-Paganism in South Africa. Working with the very few Tibetans living in South Africa, his MA dissertation explored questions surrounding Tibetan identities in exile. Currently, his doctoral research focuses on the dynamics of grassroots spirit mediumship and possession in the South Asian Tibetan diaspora context. His advisor is Carole McGranahan.
Jennifer Leichliter(BA Anthropology, 2008 Colorado College; MA Anthropology, 2011 University of Colorado). Jen is interested in the paleoecological context of early hominin evolution. Her focus includes the reconstruction of faunal community structure and isotopic ecology in South Africa during the Plio-Pleistocene. Her advisor is Matt Sponheimer.
Willi Lempert(BA Interdisciplinary Studies, 2007 Miami University; MA Cultural Anthropology, 2010 University of Denver). Willi is working with communities and indigenous media organizations in the Kimberley region of Northwestern Australia. By following the social life of media, he seeks to understand diverse Aboriginal conceptions of indigeneity. Willi is also interested in the emerging film genre of Native American science fiction. His advisor is Jennifer Shannon.
Christyanne Melendez(MS Geology, 2007 Northern Arizona University; BS Geology, 2003 University of Vermont). Christyanne is interested in how the human-environment relationship has evolved in volcanically-active regions of the world as discerned from the achaeological record. She is particularly interested in the unique cultural adaptations that arise (e.g. beliefs systems) in response to volcanism, and how cultural perceptions and identificaton with environment affect sustainability and resilience. Her current reseach focus is prehispanic Mesoamerica. Her advisors are Dr. Gerardo Gutierrez and Dr. Payson Sheets.
Danielle Merriman(BA Sociology/Anthropology and Studio Art, 2009 Cornell College ; MA Anthropology, 2011 University of Colorado). Merriman’s research explores the creation of visual art in Colombia as it relates to the past and present effects of armed conflict within the country. Through attention to the visual art and creation process, by professional artists and by citizens affected by conflict, Merriman seeks to address how memories of violence are communicated through public art displays and considers how these displays speak to historical narratives of the on-going war. Her advisor is Dr. Roland.
Meryleen Mena(BA Anthropology, 2005 Columbia University; MA Anthropology, 2010 University of Colorado). Meryleen’s research examines current human rights organizing in São Paulo, Brazil. She investigates the ramifications of police violence and how subjugated communities both embody and deal with social, economic, and political adversity. Her advisor is Donna Goldstein.
James Millette(BS Anthropology, 2003 Emory University; MA Anthropology, 2007 University of Colorado). Jim is interested in understanding the behavioral, ecological and biological effects of primate tooth wear. His work combines both field and lab based approaches to better understand how loss of dental function may impact health status, reproductive success and the ability to survive, as well as the role of behavior in mediating such effects. His current work is on ring-tailed lemurs at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, in Southwestern Madagascar, where he is carrying out his doctoral field research. His advisor is Michelle Sauther.
Cody Newton(BA Anthropology, 1996 University of Wyoming; MA Anthropology, 2008 Colorado State University). Cody studies the archaeology of the western Great Plains and middle Rocky Mountains. His dissertation research focuses on the early contact period and the development of Plains Indian equestrianism. Other research foci include Paleoindian studies, early European exploration and settlement, the historic bison robe trade, and the Plains Indian Wars. His advisor is Doug Bamforth.
Oliver Paine(BA Anthropology 1996, Pomona College ; MA Anthropology, 2011 University of Colorado). Paine is interested in the dispersal and speciation patterns of the australopithecines, focusing on the broad ecological and biogeographical context in which they occurred. His advisor is Matt Sponheimer.
Katy Putsavage(BA Anthropology, 2001 University of Maryland; MS Museum and Field Studies, 2008 University of Colorado). Putsavage’s research interests are in museums and archaeology of the Southwest US. Her master’s thesis research focused on Mesa Verde ceramic mugs. Katy’s dissertation research is focusing on the social changes which occurred in the southern Southwest after AD 1130. She is working at the Black Mountain Site (LA 49) near Deming, NM. Her advisor is Steve Lekson.
Anna Schneider(BA Anthropology & Museum Studies, 2011, Colorado College). Anna is interested in Mesoamerican ethnohistory, representations of the Basin of Mexico, and the interaction of Spanish and native groups from the 16th century onward. Her current research deals with how the landscape of the Basin of Mexico was altered by the establishment and expansion of Tenochtitlan and later Mexico City. As a dual degree student, Anna is also a student in the Leeds MBA program with a focus in marketing and management. Her advisor is Gerardo Gutierrez.
Kristin Schwagerl(BA Anthropology & Sociology, 2011 Gustavus Adolphus College). Kris is a biological anthropology student currently working towards her MA. Her research interests include hominin origins and dietary reconstruction. She has done field work in South Africa as part of the Mossel Bay Archaeology Project. Her previous independent research and experimentation has focused on ostrich eggshell and red ocher. Kris’s advisor is Matt Sponheimer.
Morgan Seamont(BA Anthropology, 2007 Washington State University-Vancouver; MA Anthropology, 2009 University of Colorado). Morgan Seamont is researching how transgender men identify after transitioning to a masculine identity regarding their sexuality and community affiliation. Community belonging and sexual identity both have significant impacts on the individual life of a transgender person and in turn, transgender people have significant effects on communities to which they belong. The crossover and mutability of gender and sexuality based on transmen’s experiences can shed light on how we define gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities through embodiment theory. His field work will be conducted in Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Denver. His advisor is Kaifa Roland.
Marnie Thompson(BA Anthropology, 2004 Washington University in St. Louis; MA Social Sciences, 2006 University of Chicago). Thomson’s research is in cultural anthropology, with a focus on the politics of humanitarian intervention across the borders of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her advisor is Carole McGranahan.
Erin Van Regenmorter(BA English, BS Biology, 2000 Hope College; BS Anthropology, 2006 Grand Valley State University; MA Anthropology, 2009 Western Michigan University). Erin’s research has focused on environmental, developmental, and biological influences on the behavior patterns of captive spider monkeys. She is currently interested in investigating the various correlates of growth and development and how they relate to life history in captive primates. Her advisor is Bert Covert.
Photo of field school students and faculty sitting on porch in Southwest.
Barb in Brazil

Field school group on porch
(Photo/Jeff Ferguson)

Barb in Brazil
(Photo/Barb Piperata)
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