Lars Fehren-Schmitz

2015 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Anthropology
UC Santa Cruz

Project Title: Colonial Encounters and Climate Change: Mapping the Evolution of Human Genetic Diversity in the Central Andes throughout the Pre-Columbian Period.

Human dispersal across the world and the adaptation to local environments are inextricably associated with our unique capacity for culture. Culture has not halted human genetic evolution but has influenced its many directions. How biology and culture intersect is central to understanding human evolution, dispersal, diversity, and health. The fellowship will support me in examining the role of interaction between biology and culture in the formation human diversity during our recent evolutionary past. By reconstructing prehistoric population genetics within the well-documented archaeological, ecological and socioeconomic context of the Central Andes, I seek to generate spatial and temporal maps of ancient human genetic diversity with a resolution inconceivable just a few years ago. The results of the proposed project will enable the generation of more precise models explaining how specific modes of human dispersal (colonial expansion, forced relocations, labor diaspora, and disease transmission between distant geographic regions), and ecological changes (climate change, subsistence strategies, exploitation of resources) might impact on the demography and diversity of local populations.