New article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences by PhD student Micayla Spiros and Assistant Professor Joseph Hefner on a combined approach to ancestry estimation

Department of Anthropology PhD student Micayla Spiros and Assistant Professor Dr. Joseph Hefner recently published an article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences entitled, “Ancestry Estimation Using Cranial and Postcranial Macromorphoscopic Traits.” The article discusses a combined approach of using cranial and postcranial traits in ancestry estimation and introduces a new web-based application for forensic anthropologists, ComboMaMD Analytical.

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Abstract: Ancestry estimation methods using macromorphoscopic (MMS) traits commonly focus exclusively on cranial morphology. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the value of postcranial MMS traits, highlighting a combined cranial/postcranial trait approach to ancestry estimation using quadratic discriminant function and a variety of machine learning classification models including artificial neural networks (aNN), random forest models, and support vector machine. Eight cranial and eleven postcranial MMS traits were collected from the Terry and Bass Skeletal Collections (American Black = 81; American White = 173). Our classification models using cranial and postcranial traits correctly classified 88–92% of the sample, improving classification accuracies by nearly fifteen percent over models relying exclusively on cranial data. These same results demonstrate the importance of a multivariate statistical framework incorporating cranial and postcranial data and the nearly unlimited potential of machine learning models to improve the accuracy of ancestry estimates over traditional methods of analysis. To facilitate implementation in casework, one of the more robust models (aNN) is incorporated into a web‐based application, ComboMaMD Analytical, to facilitate cranial and postcranial MMS traits analysis for ancestry estimation.