Alexis Dolphin

Associate Professor

Alexis Dolphin

Office:  PAS 2015

Phone: 519-888-4567 x42603



Dr. Dolphin completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst in 2006. Her dissertation explored the ability of teeth to serve as biomarkers of nutritional stress in Mexican communities living with mild-to-moderate malnutrition. She then completed a SSHRC-funded postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Western Ontario, prior to becoming a full-time teaching faculty member there for several years.  Alexis joined the Anthropology Department at the University of Waterloo in 2016.


As a biological anthropologist, Dr. Dolphin specializes in dental anthropology, human osteology, bioarchaeology, paleonutrition and paleopollution, with an emphasis on reconstructing the experiences of mothers and children via chemical and histological analyses of teeth and bones.  While her previous fieldwork was conducted in Ontario, Belize, Mexico, Iceland, and Peru, she currently co-directs excavations of the Wadi Faynan 100 cemetery located in Jordan (with Dr. Russell Adams).  Her laboratory work utilizes human bones and teeth from ancient and contemporary samples from around the world, and here in Canada.  She is the Director of the Ancient and Contemporary Environmental Bioindicators Laboratory (ACEBioLab) located in the Department of Anthropology. Dr. Dolphin recently completed a project examining the health of children living in early medieval Bergen, Norway, during a period of rapid urbanization, and enjoyed several Guest Researcher appointments at the University of Bergen which were sponsored by the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study Tooth Bank (MoBaTann).  Her more recent work has used trace elements, stable isotopes and dental histology to study paleopollution, mobility, and childhood stress, respectively.   

From a methodological perspective, Dr. Dolphin focuses on histological and microspatial chemical analyses (LA-ICP-MS, synchrotron XRF) of teeth and bones.  She works to situate laboratory results within larger public and academic discussions regarding embodiment, lived experience, power, inequality and diversity.  As an anthropologist dedicated to taking a critical biocultural approach to understanding humans, Dr. Dolphin also conducts research related to the body and its shifting location in debates regarding ownership of biomaterials, sex/gender and sexuality, and the evolution of so-called human behavioural universals. 


The Ancient and Contemporary Environmental Bioindicators Laboratory (ACEBioLab), located in PAS 2271, supports research on human-environment interactions utilizing cutting edge technology for conducting microspatial analyses of human tissues from past and living populations.  This laboratory houses sample preparation systems (including precision saws, grinder/polishers, micromill) and microscopes with 2D and 3D imaging systems.  Support for the foundation of ACEBioLab comes from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation – John R. Evans Leaders Fund and an Ontario Research Fund – Infrastructure grant (#37473).  For more information visit: (coming soon).

Dr. Dolphin currently curates several skeletal and dental collections representing diverse populations, including:

  • Early Bronze Age individuals from Wadi Faynan 100, Jordan
  • Sudanese Nubians from several sites/time periods
  • Medieval French ‘monks’
  • Contemporary Norwegians

Graduate Supervision

Dr. Dolphin is interested in supervising research in the following areas, with samples derived from living and/or past populations.  She is also open to correspondence regarding other topics of interest to potential graduate students.

  • Dental anthropology
    • chemistry, develpmental defects, calculus, dental disease, nonmetric traits, cementum analysis
  • Paleopollution (trace elements)
  • Paleomobility (strontium isotopes)
  • Maternal and infant health
  • Bioarchaeology of lived experience
  • Biocultural anthropology
  • Critiques of the biological bases of human behaviour

Courses Taught

ANTH 204: Biological Anthropology

ANTH 222: Anthropologies of the Body

ANTH 365: Human Evolution

ANTH 372: Archaeological Field School (Wadi Faynan, Jordan)

ANTH 377: Dental Anthropology

ANTH 391: Reading Course

ANTH 491: Honours Thesis

ANTH 614: Research Methods (graduate)


2019        Meijer, J, Dolphin, AE, Yakymchuk, C, Gervers, M. 2019.  Interpreting medieval mobility from burials at the rock‐hewn church of St. Georges, Gurat (France): Insights from strontium isotope analysis of bones and teeth.  International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 29(4):574-583. DOI: 10.1002/oa.2753

2018      Dolphin, AE. Diet and Trace Elements.  SAS Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences.  Editor: Sandra L. López Varela, pp. 424-428. New York: Wiley.

2016      Dolphin, AE, Teeter, M, White, CD, Longstaffe, F.  Limiting the impact of destructive analytical techniques through sequential microspatial sampling of the enamel from single teeth.  Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 5:537-541. DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.01.009

2013      Dolphin, AE, Nelson, A, Naftel, S, Martin, RR.   Bromine in teeth and bone as an indicator of marine diet.  Journal of Archaeological Science 40:1778-1786. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.11.020

2012      Dolphin, AE, Dundas, SH, Kosler, J, Tvinnereim, HM, Geffen, A.   A comparison of techniques measuring the trace element content of human teeth: laser ablation ICP-MS versus solution ICP-MS of micromilled enamel. International Journal of Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 2(3):189-195.

2009      Dolphin, AE, and Goodman, AH.  Maternal Diets, Nutritional Status and Zinc in Contemporary Mexican Infants’ Teeth: Implications for Reconstructing Paleodiets.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140(3):399-409. DOI:10.1002/ajpa.21068

2006      White, CD, Maxwell, J, Dolphin, A, Williams, J, Longstaffe, F.   Pathoecology and paleodiet in Postclassic/Historic Maya from northern coastal Belize.   Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 101(Suppl. II): 35-42.DOI: 10.1590/S0074-02762006001000007 

2005      Dolphin, AE, Goodman, AH, Amarasiriwardena, D.  Variation in elemental intensities among teeth and between pre- and postnatal regions of enamel.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 128(4):878-888. DOI:10.1002/ajpa.20213

2003      Goodman, AH, Dolphin, AE, Klein, R, Backstrand, JR., Amarasiriwardena, D., and Reid, J.B. Jr.  Tooth rings: dental enamel as a chronological biomonitor of elemental absorption from pregnancy to adolescence.  Journal of Children’s Health 1(2):203-214. DOI: 10.3109/713610282