Departments of Anthropology and Biology

Interdisciplinary Graduate programs in Bioinformatics & Genomics and Ecology

Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

Pennsylvania State University
 

WHAT WE DO:

  • Anthropological genomics

  • Paleogenomics (ancient DNA)

  • Human rainforest hunter-gatherer evolutionary ecology

  • Human impacts on non-human evolutionary biology

  • Parasites as proxies for human evolution

  • Madagascar human-environment interaction & lemur evolutionary ecology

Projects in our lab are broadly motivated by hypotheses about human evolutionary ecology -- how we have adapted to our variable or changing environments -- and how human behavior has affected the evolutionary biology of other species that share our ecosystems. Among our major current project areas, one is focused on the evolutionary ecology of human rainforest hunter-gatherers, including the identification and characterization of convergent adaptation among genetically distinct African and Southeast Asian populations. Another research area considers the evolutionary biology of various human parasites, including tapeworms and lice, as proxies from which to make inferences about our own evolution. Finally, we are studying the history of human-environment interactions on Madagascar and the evolutionary ecologies of lemurs on the island, including on how this diverse group of primates (including extinct species - the “subfossil” lemurs) has been affected by, and possibly adapted to, anthropogenic habitat disturbances and hunting pressures. Please see our Projects page for more detailed information.

Most of our projects have major genomics laboratory and computational research components. When possible, we incorporate functional analyses into our studies, for example with cell line (including with induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPSC) and parasite experiments. In addition to our modern DNA lab, we have a separate ancient DNA (paleogenomics) lab where we work with the bones and teeth of individuals from extinct species or from prehistoric populations of extant species. Finally, some projects also involve the collection of complementary ecological data at international field sites in Madagascar, Uganda, and Peru. Our research is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Students are welcome to design studies related to the lab’s current projects, or to develop new programs of research that address distinct hypotheses concerning human or non-human primate evolution. Prospective graduate students may apply through the Anthropology, Biology, Ecology, or Bioinformatics & Genomics programs, depending on their background and interests. A flyer highlighting the Anthropology graduate program can be downloaded by clicking here.