Welcome to the Laboratory of

Molecular Anthropology and Ancient DNA




Entrance of humans into the Americas


Much attention has been placed on estimating the amount and form of genetic and morphological variation that was brought to the Americas and the closely related topic of how many “waves” of migration contributed to the variation observed today. To understand the importance of resolving these issues, one can think about the pre-contact Americas as the ultimate “island” to where a number of humans migrated, while few returned.  In this case, the more precisely one can determine how much variation was carried to the Americas, the more precisely one can estimate how much variation has evolved within the Americas.  It then becomes quickly apparent that resolving the time at which humans first entered the Americas and the timing of any subsequent “waves” is essential for estimating rates of evolution on the American “island.”  This would not only be true for genetic and biological evolution, but also that of the rates of linguistic and cultural evolution. 

We are working with a number of ancient human remains and human byproducts (i.e. desiccated feces or coprolites) that are bound to provide novel insight into this fascinating topic. 


Reconstructing Native American Prehistory


We currently have active research projects aimed to reconstruct human population histories in Southeastern Alaska, California, and the American Southwest.


Improving Ancient DNA Methods


The reliability of genetic evidence obtained from degraded sources is compromised by contamination and the extent of post mortem damage of DNA template molecules.  These problems, combined with the effects of co-extracted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) inhibitors, make the analysis of some degraded specimens difficult, if not impossible.  In this portion of our research we are conducting a number of novel experiments to address these major issues and more fully understand aspects of the “behavior” of ancient DNA.


Inferring Human Behavior through the Analysis of Ancient Animals


Currently we are pursuing questions pertaining to the domestication of turkeys in the American Southwes and fishing practices in the Pacific Northwest. Much of this research centers around molecular species identification, which can supplement more traditional identification based on morphology.



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Department of Anthropology, PO Box 6444910, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-4910, 509-335-3441, Contact Us

School of Biological Sciences, PO Box 644236, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-4236, 509-335-3553, Contact Us