As part of the University’s Technician’s Working Commitment, James Kloda, Technical Support Officer for the School of Anthropology and Conservation, and postdoctoral research associate Dr Jim Labisko showed fellow technicians from other Schools and departments around the state-of-the-art facilities in Marlowe building at the centre of campus.
Research in conservation genetics is spread across two molecular laboratories. One is dedicated to DNA extraction and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) preparation with a second lab dedicated to PCR amplification and downstream analyses, yielding such research impact as former PhD student Andrew Buxton’s work on Great Crested Newt eDNA. The facility includes thermocyclers for standard PCR and quantitative PCR as well as UV-hoods in both laboratories for work on low-yield or degraded DNA samples.
The School also houses an ecology laboratory featuring many live specimens such as the Golden mantilla frog and the Mexican salamander (axolotl). In addition, there is a further collection of amphibians and reptiles that are used for educational purposes both within the lab and in their natural habitat at a dedicated field site on campus. In preparation for fieldwork, students are trained in the safe capture, handling and measuring of such fascinating and threatened creatures.
The Ethnobiology Laboratory focuses on the identification of useful plants, herbarium practice, on culture and taste perception, and material culture. The lab’s general reference collection of biocultural objects is meticulously stored with objects arranged by botanical family in alphabetical order, while large items and animal materials are stored separately. The lab also houses the Ellen fieldwork collections and the Audrey Hardcastle collection of botanical illustrations.
The Human Osteology Research Lab investigates questions related to growth and development, and diet in humans, non-human primates, our fossil ancestors and other mammals. The lab specialises in tooth and bone histology and stable isotope analysis, and is fully equipped for bone sectioning, high-resolution microscopy, image analysis and collagen extraction. In addition, the lab curates an extensive human skeletal pathological collection and related radiographs. It is also home to KORA (Kent Osteological Research & Analysis), an established unit offering osteological analyses of human skeletal remains both on-site and within the lab.
The Animal Postcranial Evolution Laboratory (APE) investigates the evolution and functional morphology of the postcranial skeleton, with a focus on humans, non-human primates and their fossil ancestors. The goal of its research is to better our understanding of how bone shape and structure reflect function and behaviour in living and fossil species. A variety of methods are used, including comparative metrics of external morphology, analyses of internal bone structure (trabecular and cortical bone) and in vivo biomechanics of locomotion.
The Virtual Palaeoanthropology Laboratory investigates the evolutionary history of humans from 7 million years ago to present. Its research aims are to reconstruct the lineage that led to the origin of modern humans after the split from our common ancestor with the chimpanzee/bonobo lineage focusing on hominin systematics, skeletal and dental functional morphology, skeletal biology and behaviour. A variety of methods are practiced on high-specification workstations including high-resolution micro-computed tomographic (microCT) imaging, image analysis software, bone structural analysis and geometric morphometrics.
The Hugh Brody Room is a modern editing suite for visual anthropology projects and ethnographic filmmaking, fully equipped with 16 iMacs running Premiere Pro and a large plasma screen to present group screenings. High-end cameras, tripods and audio recorders are available to loan for students wanting to make more practical and creative contributions to research.
The recently refurbished Charles Darwin laboratory, as much a museum space as a practical classroom, is a fully-equipped scientific research space housing the School’s impressive cast collection of human and primate skeletal models, which includes fully-mounted skeletons of a chimpanzee and spider monkey, and a reconstruction of a gigantopithecus, the largest ape known to man.
The School also has a dedicated undergraduate computer room furnished with 32 PCs replete with high-definition monitors and premium hardware perfect for teaching statistics and spatial modelling.