ANTH 2406: Human Evolutionary Genetics

This course provides a broad overview of the genetics of human evolution and diversity.  The course examines the genetic evidence for human origins, distribution, and adaptation.  In the process, the course explores how tools from molecular biology are used to address a wide variety of anthropological questions, such as:  If the human and chimpanzee genomes are 98% identical, why do humans and chimpanzees look and behave so differently?  Do biological races exist? When, where and why did agriculture and animal domestication develop?  How are we related to other mammals, to other apes, and to other species of Homo, like Neanderthals? Why are some ethnic groups more susceptible than others to certain diseases?  This course also gives students the necessary background for assessing genetic issues that commonly make news headlines and are of relevance to public policy (e.g. DNA profiling, personal genomics).

  Check out the HEG blog where students post and discuss recent articles on diversity, genomics and evolution:


ANTH 2402: Primate Molecular Ecology & Evolution

This course provides an overview of primatology in the era of primate genomics.  The course examines how genetic and genomic analyses can be used to address a variety of issues in primate behavioural ecology and evolution, such as:  measuring reproductive success and identifying kinship networks in wild primate populations;  censusing primates and developing conservation strategies; identifying the evolutionary relationships among primate taxa and populations;  and identifying the molecular basis of primate adaptations. The course will take a case-study approach, focusing on issues in primatology rather than details of the molecular biology. Nevertheless, the course will give students a general understanding of the molecular ‘tool kit’ available to primatologists and other wildlife biologists.  Classes will be a combination of lectures and seminar-style discussions of assigned readings (case studies). 


ANTH 6407: Topics in Anthropological Genetics

This seminar course explores current research and methodologies in human genomics and evolutionary genetics.  The first sequence and analysis of the human genome was published in 2001, and our understanding of human genetic variation and molecular evolution has accelerated dramatically in the decade and a half since. This course examines, from an anthropological perspective, our current understanding of the structure and evolution of the human genome, transcriptome, epigenome and microbiome.  We will discuss how advancements in paleogenetics (e.g. sequencing of the Neanderthal and other hominin genomes) influence and confound our understanding of human origins and migrations. We will consider human genomic diversity within the context of local selective pressures related to biogeography, environment and culture (e.g. altitude, UV-exposure, diet).  With the rapid advancement of genomic tools, particularly in medical genetics, have also come important ethical and social implications, and this course will consider some of these issues, such as personal genomics, sample ownership and privacy. 

ANTH 6491: Grant Writing - Biological Anthropology

This course is for students currently preparing grant proposals to fund their dissertation research in biological anthropology. Students will gain a broad perspective on the process of applying for research support and the factors that make for a successful proposal.  Students will complete a full proposal (typically for submission to the National Science Foundation Biological Anthropology Program - Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants  (BA-DDRIG), the Leakey Foundation, and/or the Wenner-Gren Foundation) over the course of the semester. 


ANTH 6491: Primate Genomics

This course provides a detailed exploration of molecular approaches to understanding primate behavior, ecology, and evolution. The course considers how the new wealth of genomic data aids primatological research on issues such as sexual selection; sociality and cooperation among kin and non-kin; phylogenomics and taxonomy; dietary, morphological, and behavioral adaptations; and migration, distribution, and conservation.  Readings are recent primary research papers and literature reviews, with a focus on current research findings and their implications. Each student will design, write-up, and present a research project relevant to primate genomics.


ANTH 6491: Methods & Research in Molecular Anthropology I

This lab-based course is part of a year-long sequence in which students acquire the intellectual grounding and the laboratory skills needed to identify and understand research issues in anthropological genetics, to design a research project that addresses one such issue, and to implement the project.  In the first semester, students: 1) learn the basic bench and bioinformatics techniques used in molecular anthropology (DNA and RNA extraction, DNA-quantification, PCR, gel electrophoresis, measuring gene expression using quantitative PCR, DNA sequencing, obtaining DNA sequences from GenBank, and analyzing genetic data); 2) use readings and instruction from the professor to understand why these techniques are important for addressing many questions in anthropology and evolutionary biology, how to frame the questions, and how to use these techniques to address them; and 3) develop independent research projects aimed at answering a specific question in molecular anthropology. Students are given a list of potential project ideas to choose from, or they can design their own.

In developing a research project, each student must review the literature and write a 10-20 page project proposal describing the project's background and significance, hypotheses, predictions, methods, and contingency plans.  At the end of the semester, students give 20-minute presentations on their project plans and pilot data. Students continue their projects in the second semester (ANTH 395/895).


ANTH 6491: Methods & Research in Molecular Anthropology II

This course follows directly from ANTH 394/894: Methods and Research in Anthropological Genetics I. In ANTH 394/894 students developed and designed genetics research projects addressing specific questions in anthropology. Those research projects are carried out in this course. Classes are structured as ‘lab meetings’ in which students take turns presenting and discussing their projects as they develop (including problems, troubleshooting, preliminary results, etc). Students also take turns selecting 1-3 specific readings (recent scientific publications of broad interest but relevant to their project), which they will present to the class. All students are expected to read these selected articles beforehand and to participate in a general discussion of the articles. In particular, students are asked to critically evaluate the molecular methods employed in these published studies. At the end of the semester, student submit project abstracts and give conference-quality presentations (20-30 minutes) on the results of the projects, and write up the results with the aim of submitting a paper for publication (15-25 pages). Students must be able to work independently in the lab and to invest at least 10 hours per week in the lab outside of scheduled class time. 


Course materials, including syllabi, and lab manuals are available through blackboard

Illustrations copyright Stephen D. Nash/CI. Used with permission.