Vanier Scholar Renee Willmon analyzes the evolutionary impact of tuberculosis (TB) using 3D investigation

Renee Willmon, an accomplished Vanier Scholar at the University of Western Ontario, aims to use modern genetic and clinical understanding of TB to determine the ways this disease has impacted the evolution and development of societies through space and time.

Using paleopathology and 3-D imaging techniques, Renee is studying skeletons in Canada and Europe, including samples from the Kleinburg Ossuary Skeletal Collection, an ancestral Wendat skeletal sample dating from 1600 AD. With this study, Renee hopes that TB among First Nation ancestors may also shed light on contributing factors to the modern susceptibility of Canadian First Nations.

Renee remains mindful to be respectful and non-intrusive towards the remains of First Nation ancestors.  She has created opportunities to highlight the significance of her research in a sustainable and culturally sensitive way, which transcends language, or cultural barriers using digital 3D imaging. "To overcome these methodological limitations and preserve culturally sensitive human remains, this research will use micro-3D imaging and visualization techniques to improve our ability to diagnose TB in the past" says Renee.

"My work has benefits beyond my specific research question, in that Micro-CT and 3D analysis is advancing our understanding of bone microstructure and how it relates to disease, so that this type of data can be used to access more information about the lives of past peoples" she states.

Renee is advised by both Dr. Andrew Nelson at the University of Western Ontario and Dr. Oliver Dutour at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne), France, for her project. One of her goals is to "introduce the value of anthropology and paleopathology to a wider international audience". Renee is also contributing to the documentary/reality television show To Catch a Killer, using forensic anthropology to provide insight on cold cases.

"A Vanier award has helped me achieve my goals and raise the profile of Canadian innovations in anthropology throughout North America and Europe."
-Vanier Scholar Renee Willmon, Western University

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