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Current Work

I work to refine knowledge of the poorly understood processes of dental development and growth and clarify how dental tissues may resolve taxonomic, phylogenetic, and developmental questions about great apes and humans. Tooth microstructure, a primary focus of my research, is critically important for the study of development as age at death can be precisely and independently determined from juvenile dentitions, and dental development is correlated with aspects of life history, or the overall pace of growth and reproduction. My research program encompasses aspects of developmental biology, oral biology, and evolutionary biology, and employs fundamental histological approaches as well as state-of-the-art imaging techniques. Ultimately I am motivated by a desire to fully understand how teeth grow, why they vary, and how this information can advance the field of human evolutionary biology.

Learn more at: drtanyamsmith.com

Related Media Items


Expertise Keywords

  • Biological Anthrology
  • Dental Histology
  • Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Paleoanthropology

Subject Area Codes

  • Archaeological Science
  • Biological (Physical) Anthropology
  • Evolutionary Biology

Research Publications and Outputs

Recent Publications

Publications: 26 (Other: 26)

Funded Griffith Research

Engagement and Impact


  • Public Event
    The Tales Teeth Tell - Book Launch Impact Lecture,   Griffith Sciences,   2018,  
  • Public Event
    What Primates Teach Us About Being Human,   Queensland Museum,   2018,  
  • Seminar
    Invited Seminar,   Monash University,   2018,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar: Brainfood Breakfast,   World Science Festival,   2018,  
  • Public Panel
    Women's Initiative Panel,   Australasian Society of Immunology Conference,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar Westmead Centre for Oral Health,   University of Sydney,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar Centre of Archaeological Science,   University of Wollongong,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar University of Auckland,   University of Auckland,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar in the School of Social Science,   University of Queensland,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar School of Dentistry and Oral Health,   Griffith University,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Speaker Sesquicentennial Celebration Educational Summit,   Harvard School of Dental Medicine,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar in the Environmental Futures Research Institute,   Griffith University,   2017,  
  • Public Event
    Invited Seminar in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology,   Australian National University,   2017,  

Learning and Teaching

Current and Past Courses

  • Perspect on Human Evolution (3029NSC)
    Convenor, In Person, Intensive, Nathan Campus, Trimester 3, 2018.
  • Perspectives on Human Evolution (NSC 3029)
    Teacher, In Person, Intensive, Nathan Campus, Trimester 3, 2017.

Research by Higher Degree Supervision or Scholarship

Supervision Overview

Proudly supervised recent Harvard University PhDs Katherine Carter (2016) and Daniel Green (2017). Open to expressions of interest from prospective HDR candidates interested in pursuing studies in biological anthropology at Griffith University.



Dr. Tanya Smith is an Associate Professor in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University, and has previously held professorships and fellowships at Harvard University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany). Tanya received her doctorate in Anthropological Sciences from Stony Brook University in 2004.

Dr. Smith’s research explores the evolution and development of the human dentition. She has helped to identify of the origins of a fundamental human adaptation: the costly yet advantageous shift from a “live fast and die young” strategy to the “live slow and grow old” strategy that has helped to make us one of the most successful mammals on the planet.

Dr. Smith’s research has been funded by the US National Science Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Her work has been published in Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and highlighted in the New York Times, National Geographic, Nature, Science, Smithsonian, and Discovery magazines, as well as through NPR, PBS, History Channel, Voice of America and BBC broadcast media.

Education and Training

  • PhD Doctor Of Philosophy, Stony Brook University - 2004
  • MA Master Of Arts, Stony Brook University - 2002
  • BScHons Bachelor Of Science With Honours, State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo - 1997

Academic experience

  • Associate Professor, Griffith University 2016 -
  • Visiting Scholar, Harvard University 2016 -
  • Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley 2015 - 2017
  • Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard University) 2013 - 2014
  • Associate Professor, Harvard University 2012 - 2016
  • Assistant Professor, Harvard University 2008 - 2012
  • Research Scientist (Assistant Professor equivalent), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology 2006 - 2008
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology 2004 - 2005

Awards and Honours

  • Leading National Researcher in Anthropology, The Australian (Newspaper) 2018 - 2018
  • Finalist for Research Leader Award, Women in Technology 2018 - 2018
  • Fellowship, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study 2013 - 2014
  • Clark Award, Harvard University - 2013
  • Milton Award, Harvard University - 2010
  • President’s Award for Distinguished Doctoral Students, Stony Brook University - 2005
  • Second Place for Best Student Research at Tri-Beta Biological Honors Society Regional Convention, Tri-Beta Biological Honors Society - 1997
  • Dean’s List, SUNY Geneseo 1994 - 1997

Professional experience

  • Participant, Achieving Healthcare Leadership and Impact through Writing, Publishing and Social Media Program, Harvard Medical School - 2015
  • Participant, Train-the-Trainer (T3) Faculty Diversity Workshop, University of Washington - 2015
  • Co-Active Leadership Program Graduate, Coaches Training Institute 2013 - 2014
  • Leadership Skills for Engineering and Science Faculty Workshop, Harvard University 2011 - 2011
  • Participant, Public Speaking as a Performing Art Workshop, Harvard University - 2009

Internal service roles

  • NTEU Appointed Representative to the University Equity Committee, Griffith University 2017 -
  • N55 Laboratory Supervisory Committee, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution 2017 -
  • Griffith Sciences/EFRI Resilience in Research and in Life Seminar Chair, Griffith University 2017 - 2017
  • Teaching Program Development Committee, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution 2016 -
  • Paleoanthropology Theme Co-Leader, ARCHE 2016 -
  • Website Development Committee, ARCHE 2016 -

External service roles

  • Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member, Physical Anthropology Women’s Mentoring Network 2008 -

Visiting appointments

  • Visiting Scholar, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University 2016 - 2018
  • Visiting Scholar, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley 2015 - 2017

Editorial roles

  • Reviewer, South African Journal of Science -
  • Reviewer, Springer’s Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Edited Volume Series -
  • Reviewer, Science -
  • Reviewer, Quarterly Review of Biology -
  • Reviewer, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA -
  • Reviewer, PLoS ONE -
  • Reviewer, PLoS Genetics -
  • Reviewer, Nature Communications -
  • Reviewer, Nature -
  • Reviewer, National Science Foundation -
  • Reviewer, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation -
  • Reviewer, Journal of Morphology -
  • Reviewer, Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials -
  • Reviewer, Journal of Human Evolution -
  • Reviewer, The Journal of Experimental Biology -
  • Reviewer, Journal of Dental Research -
  • Reviewer, Journal of Archaeological Science -
  • Reviewer, Journal of Anatomy -
  • Reviewer, International Journal of Primatology -
  • Reviewer, HOMO - Journal of Comparative Human Biology -
  • Reviewer, The Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal -
  • Reviewer, Graduate Women in Science Fellowships -
  • Reviewer, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta -
  • Reviewer, Folia Primatologica -
  • Reviewer, Evolutionary Anthropology -
  • Reviewer, European Research Council -
  • Reviewer, Current Biology -
  • Reviewer, Current Anthropology -
  • Reviewer, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society -
  • Reviewer, Archives of Oral Biology -
  • Reviewer, Anthropologischer Anzeiger -
  • Reviewer, Annals of Human Biology -
  • Reviewer, American Journal of Physical Anthropology -
  • Reviewer, American Journal of Human Biology -

Professional memberships

  • Member, Association for Women in Science (US) 2015 -
  • AAUW Member, American Association of University Women 2015 -
  • DA Member, Dental Anthropology Association 2010 -
  • Member, Paleoanthropology Society 2005 -
  • AAPA Member, American Association of Physical Anthropologists 1999 -