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  Lars Fehren-Schmitz

Lars Fehren-Schmitz




Social Sciences Division

Anthropology Department

Director of Graduate Studies
Associate Director of the UCSC Genomics Institute


Genomics Institute
Science & Justice Research Center
Institute for Social Transformation
Biomolecular Science & Engineering
Archaeological Research Center

Regular Faculty

Ancient DNA
Human Biology
Population Biology
Molecular Evolution

Social Sciences 1

Social Sciences 1 Faculty Services

MA in Biological Anthropology (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and in Archaeology, University of Goettingen, Germany

PhD (Dr. rer. nat) in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Goettingen, Germany

PostDoc in Anthropology & EEB, Yale University, USA


Human Ecology, Ancient DNA, Anthropological-/Forensic- Genetics

My work at the UCSC Human Paleogenomics Lab looks at the twin forces of culture and biology in shaping human genomic diversity, demography and health. Since our species emerged around 200,000 years ago, humans have successfully occupied almost all of the planet’s terrestrial ecosystems, adapting to a multitude of novel stress factors, and persisting in an ever-changing world—changes that we humans have been increasingly responsible for in the last 10,000 years or so. My lab is especially interested in this period, the anthropocene, examining how modern-day humans’ genetic variability has arisen from niche construction and the co-evolution of genes and culture. Rather than inferring  models from modern genomic data, we analyze DNA from ancient humans, pathogens, and associated metagenomes, and remain attentive to the cultural and natural environments those humans inhabited.

My focus on population history considers the changes in climate and social complexity that have influenced the genetic structure and demography of past human populations. While most of my work has been done in South America, I increasingly study other parts of the world, using ancient human and pathogen DNA to find the demographic and epidemiological effects of European contact on Native American populations, and trace human dispersals in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caucasus, and Western Europe. I am also interested in gene-culture coevolution from such stressors as nutrition or high-altitude living, host-pathogen coevolution in illnesses like malaria and Chagas disease, and how epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to plasticity also drive evolution on the small and large scales.

Human Variability
Human Ecology
Anthropological Genetics

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