Dr. Aaron LeBlanc, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.
I study tooth development and dental tissues in extinct animals to unravel how teeth have changed over evolutionary time. Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, I would visit the Royal Tyrell Museum virtually every summer and these visits drove me to become a professional palaeontologist. I completed a Bachelor of Science in palaeontology at the University of Alberta in 2008. From 2008 to 2011 I completed a Masters degree under the supervision of Professor Michael Caldwell studying extinct, giant marine lizards from Morocco and California. In 2011 I moved to the University of Toronto Mississauga to begin my PhD with Professor Robert Reisz. My PhD research focused on the evolution and development of reptile teeth. As part of this research, I was also interested in the inner workings of the complex dentitions of extinct reptiles, including dinosaurs. Much of my PhD work involved making thin sections of fossil teeth and jaws in the palaeohistology laboratory at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In 2016, I had the privilege of returning to my home campus as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta, where I continue to study the evolution of teeth using histological techniques. Over the last seven years, I have had the chance to study the teeth of lizards, alligators, dinosaurs, and a spectacular diversity of other extinct vertebrates.
Before we were mammals: evolving complex teeth in a time before the dinosaurs
Mammals have evolved many dental features that set them apart from other vertebrates, including different sizes and shapes of teeth, a permanent adult dentition, a complex tooth support system, and more durable enamel. But where do these features come from, when did they appear, and why did they evolve? The key to answering these questions lies in the extensive fossil record of our distant ancestors: the extinct synapsids. As the only members of this group alive today, mammals represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of synapsid diversity and evolutionary history. Our synapsid heritage actually stretches far back into Earth history to a time before there were dinosaurs. I will explore the ins and outs of fossil synapsid teeth and show how palaeontology is unraveling the origins of our mammalian dentition from its humble beginnings in prehistoric times. This is the 300 million-year-old story of our evolving teeth.
Dr. Scott Gilbert - Swarthmore College
Scott F. Gilbert is the Howard A. Schneiderman Professor of Biology, emeritus, at Swarthmore College, where he teaches developmental genetics, embryology, and the history and critiques of biology. He is also a Finland Distinguished Professor, emeritus, at the University of Helsinki. He received his B.A. in both biology and religion from Wesleyan University (1971), and he earned his PhD in biology from the pediatric genetics laboratory of Dr. Barbara Migeon at the Johns Hopkins University (1976). His M.A. in the history of science, also from The Johns Hopkins University, was done under the supervision of Dr. Donna Haraway. He pursued postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin in the laboratories of Dr. Masayasu Nomura and Dr. Robert Auerbach.
Scott currently has three textbooks in print: (1) Developmental Biology (now in its eleventh edition) is probably the most widely used textbook in the field; (2) The new textbook, Ecological Developmental Biology, which is trying to construct a new subdisclipine of biological science by bringing together aspects of embryology, medical physiology, ecology, and evolution; (3) Fear, Wonder, and Science in the New Age of Reproductive Biotechnology, a bioethics trade-book concerning fertilization, early human development, and infertility.
Scott has received several awards, including the Medal of François I from the Collège de France, the Dwight J. Ingle Memorial Writing Award, the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award, honorary doctorates from the University of Helsinki (Finland) and the University of Tartu (Estonia), and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant. In 2002, the Society for Developmental Biology awarded him its first Viktor Hamburger Prize for Excellence in Education, and in 2004, he was awarded the Kowalevsky Prize in Evolutionary Developmental Biology. He has been elected a fellow of the AAAS and the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists. He received the Burnhill Award from the American Reproductive Health Association in 2009, and in the last few years, he has presented the Burian-McNabb Lecture, Kurt Benirschke Lecture, and the Robert L. Brent Lecture. In 2016, he presented a lecture on developmental biology to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
In 1994, Scott established the first website for a textbook, and he is also the co-author of a digitally-based history of developmental of biology. He is funded by the National Science Foundation to work with undergraduates on that most interesting of topics-how the turtle forms its shell-and he continues to do research and write in both developmental biology and in the history and philosophy of biology. He is married to Dr. Anne Raunio and has three children. His hobbies have included playing piano in KNISH, one of Swarthmore's premier Klezmer bands.
Dr. Julia Boughner Associate Professor, Anatomy, Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Saskatchewan.Ph.D. Anatomy, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London. B.Sc. Biological Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.
• Evolutionary developmental biology
• Physical anthropology
• Craniofacial/dental morphology and evolution
My research background is in physical anthropology, broadly, the study of primate biology and evolution. Over time I’ve morphed into an evolutionary developmental biologist and have worked with various model organisms, including mouse, chick and snake.Perhaps because I am one, primates remain close to my scientific heart. While I use mouse models in much of my work, I typically ask scientific questions that I hope will inform some aspect of human evolution. In particular, I work to better understand primate craniofacial evolution and development.
Recently, I organized Saskatoon's 2017 and 2018 March for Science YXE Events. Currently, I organize Café Scientifique-Saskatoon. Previously, I co-founded and co-organized one of the first Canadian Café Scientifiques in Vancouver, BC (est. 2004) with then fellow postdoc, Anne Mullin. In 2005, I created a home-grown science and technology radio show called “My Science Project” that aired on CiTR 101.9 FM UBC campus radio until 2008. Anne and I shared broadcasting duties as producers and hosts. In August 2009 I was fortunate enough to participate in the 2-week Science Communications Program at The Banff Centre.
For me science outreach is both fun and crucial: I continue to be on the look-out for ways to fill the world with more science.In service to my research community, I serve on the Steering Committee of the Biological Anthropology Women's Mentoring Network, as an Evaluation Group member for NSERC's Discovery Grant program, on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Anatomists, and on the Executive of the Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology.
Bad molars: The evolutionary origins of wisdom teeth
In my experience, everyone has a story to tell about wisdom teeth. I'm routinely asked the same great questions about why these molars get impacted, and how we know when they need to be removed. The answers actually seem to depend on our grasp of human evolution to understand how our paleobaggage is saddling us with dental problems. My talk will unpack how modern culture is affecting our oral biology, and will explore the latest research into wisdom tooth impaction, including new ways to predict the risk of bad molars.
Dr. Tanya M. Smith - Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution | Griffith Centre for Social & Cultural Research
Dr. Tanya M. Smith is a Professor in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE) and the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research (GCSCR) at Griffith University. She has previously held a professorship at Harvard University, and fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Her area of expertise is the study of tooth growth and structure. Teeth preserve remarkably faithful records of daily growth, infant diet, and developmental stress for millions of years, as detailed in The Tales Teeth Tell. Dr. Smith's research has been funded by the US National Science Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She has published in Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and these works have been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, Nature, Science, Smithsonian, and Discovery magazines, as well as through American, Australian, British, Canadian, French, Irish, German, New Zealand, and Singaporean broadcast media.
The Tales Teeth Tell: Human Development, Evolution, and Behavior
Our teeth have intriguing stories to tell. These sophisticated time machines record our growth, diet, and evolutionary history as clearly as tree rings map a redwood’s lifespan. Each day of childhood is etched into tooth crowns and roots—capturing birth, nursing history, environmental variation, and illnesses. The study of ancient, fossilized teeth sheds light on our ancestors' development, how we evolved, and how prehistoric cultural transitions continue to affect humans today. I will offer an engaging and surprising look at what teeth tell us about the evolution of primates—including our own uniqueness.