The assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology is one of the first recipients of a new CUNY grant for junior faculty members.

Doug Boyer Wins $50,000 Grant to Create a Database of Bones

March 12, 2012

Doug Boyer starts to build a database of bones.

Doug Boyer starts to build a database of bones.

Doug Boyer has always liked bones. Now, thanks to a $50,000 CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering (J-FRASE), the assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology will be able to build a database of bones and share that information with researchers around the world.

The J-FRASE is a new grant for up-and-coming professors to help them advance their research in life science, physical science, mathematics or engineering and to bolster their ability to attract other external funding. Boyer is one of only three recipients of this year’s inaugural awards.

Boyer will use the funding to build the infrastructure for a database of fossil bones, which is related to his broader research on tracking how mammals changed in size during a period of significant climate change some 55 million years ago. The database will allow researchers to access images of teeth and ankle bones of ancient mammals in order to measure them precisely and thus extrapolate information, such as what the mammal ate and whether it walked on four limbs or two.

“No one has measured a lot of this stuff before,” explains Boyer. “Researchers have typically just looked at drawings and made observations. A lot of the differences we have described have been too difficult to measure. But when working with digital data, we can be a lot more precise and take different kinds of measurements.”

The J-FRASE funding will enable Boyer to scan the images into the database, travel to museums to access some of the fossils, and pay student research assistants to help with the project. His progress, as well as a crude version of the database, is available on Boyer’s website.

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