I am a biologist/bioanthropologist interested in the genetic and ecological context for human adaptation. I am also interested in collaborative work on gene-behavior relationships. My particular focus is on the human sense of smell–its evolutionary biology and genetics as guided by both ecological and cultural parameters. My work is framed by theory in population genetics and sensory ecology with an ultimate goal towards understanding how humans use their sense of smell to adapt to different environments. Previous research in paleobiology focused on measures of adaptation via developmental stability and resilience and measures of maladaptation based on inferring stress from biological markers of developmental instability and archaeological evidence for fragile cultural systems.
As humans, we engage with the environment directly via our senses, which are refined by evolution through behavioral interactions with ecological settings. Through these interactions, sensory filters evolve to differentiate species’ perceptual worlds; through this unwelt, we obtain information about food, mates, social interactions, and danger. I am particularly interested in olfaction as a mechanism for obtaining this information. My work explores how olfaction functions in humans from both modern and evolutionary perspectives. I aim to disrupt the commonly accepted notion that our sense of smell is not useful. Within the theoretical frames provided by evolutionary anthropology and sensory ecology, I use the tools of population genetics to address a few main questions: what was adaptive in our genus, have we diverged within the genus, is there a human-specific adaptation with behavioral components, and how are modern urban lifestyles shaping future adaptations.
Labs: Molecular Anthropology Lab is equipped with an Idaho Technologies Lightscanner 32, Eppendorf Silver EP Thermalcylcer, fumehood, UV filtered PCR hood, chemical storage facilities, -20C freezer, two thermomixes, Accuspin 17 centrifuge, mini-centrifuge balance, vortex, vertical and horiztonal electrophoresis boxes, water access (for preparation of organic material), emergency shower, a large number of disposables, DNA kits, PC, and printer.
The Ancient DNA dry lab space is used to prepare animals and bone/teeth specimens for ancient DNA analysis and extract DNA. This facility is PCR free with separate powder safe biosafety cabinets for animals and humans.
The DNA CORE lab houses a gel document imager purchased with funds from a UAF TAB grant (Hoover) and supplemental funds from IAB.