I am a paleoanthropologist broadly interested in the role past environments have played in molding our species into the diverse and complex organisms that we are today. More specifically, I use paleocommunity analyses of fossil faunas to determine which paleoenvironment(s) might have provided selection pressures that have shaped human evolutionary history. My research focuses on modern African faunal communities as models for paleocommunities and attempts to discern their associated paleoenvironments. I have applied these models to African sites ranging in time from the late Miocene through the Middle Pleistocene.
My doctoral work focused on three early Pliocene sites from the Tugen Hills of Kenya that are associated with the human ancestral species, and earliest undisputed biped, Ardipithecus ramidus. This research provides insights into the paleoecology of Ar. ramidus by examining how a shift in locomotor strategy might have proved advantageous in its identified paleoenvironmental setting(s). More recently, I have also become involved in research in the Chalbi Basin in Northern Kenya that examines Middle Pleistocene paleontological and archaeological sites situated in unique paleoenvironmental contexts. All of my East African research has both field and laboratory components, which are conducted in cooperation with the National Museums of Kenya, Division of Earth Sciences.
Here at Baylor I am Co-Director of the Human Anatomy, Human Osteology, and Zooarchaeology Labs where I conduct actualistic taphonomy research that is applicable in paleontological, archaeological, and forensic contexts. I am currently involved in research projects with faculty and student colleagues that evaluate the surface morphology of bones subjected to different substances and mechanical processes. The aim of this research is to provide a known comparative dataset by which to compare unknown specimens of paleontological, archaeological, and forensic interest to aid in their interpretation.
PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, 2011
MPhil in Anthropology from Yale University, 2003
BA in Anthropology and History from UCLA, 2000
I have broad teaching interests and experiences across the subfield of Biological Anthropology and with students at all levels from a wide variety of majors. I especially enjoy teaching hands-on courses involving human and non-human skeletal identification and analysis, such as Human Osteology (ANT/FORS 3331) and Forensic Anthropology (ANT/FORS 4355). I have also taught a number of upper level undergraduate seminar-style courses that engage students with the primary literature in the field, including Primate Behavior (ANT 4365), which features a behavioral analysis of primates at Cameron Park Zoo here in Waco, and the Human Fossil Record (ANT 4335), which changes each time I teach it as new and informative fossil specimens are recovered and identified from around the world. I also regularly teach general introductory level courses including a 4-field lecture course for non-majors, Introduction to Anthropology (ANT 1305), and a lecture/lab course entitled Introduction to Human Evolution (ANT 1404), which I developed when I came to Baylor in 2007. Most recently, I have taken on a new course that is part of our Forensic Anthropology curriculum entitled Death, Injury and Physical Remains (ANT 4358/FORS 4359) and given it a research spin with students engaging in several group research project throughout the course of the semester and then presenting their data, analyses and conclusions during URSA Scholar’s Week. I welcome students at all levels (undergraduate and graduate) in my courses and enjoy the perspectives contributed by Anthropology majors and non-majors alike. If you’re interested in taking one of my courses, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I also serve as the Department’s Undergraduate Program Director, so if you’re thinking about picking up a major or minor in Anthropology, please feel free to be in touch to discuss all of your options!
Binetti, K.M., Hill, A., and J.V. Ferraro (in review) Early Pliocene faunal assemblages from the Tugen Hills, Kenya: a comparison of field collection methods and some implications for paleoenvironmental reconstruction. In: Reynolds, S. and R. Bobe (Eds.), Pliocene and Early Pleistocene African Fauna and Paleoecology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: U.K.
Ferraro, J.V. and K.M. Binetti (2014) American alligator proximal pedal phalanges resemble human finger bones: diagnostic criteria for forensic investigators. Forensic Science International 240: 151e1-151e7