Personnel

Faculty and Staff

  • Dr. Dennis O'Rourke

    Dr. Dennis O'Rourke

    Principal Investigator
    Chair, Department of Anthropology
    Foundation Distinguished Professor
    He/him/his

    My research focuses on the use of molecular genetic methods to address long-standing questions in prehistory. My students and collaborators have conducted fieldwork and research projects in Mexico, the Caribbean, the US Southwest and California, and the North American arctic. Most recently, my group has focused attention on ancient DNA methods to investigate the colonization and dispersal of the North American arctic, and how this informs us about the earlier initial colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Utilizing genomic analyses of both human and archaeofaunal and archaeobotanical materials, my research interests and efforts increasingly are at the intersection of anthropological genetics, bioarchaeology, and paleoecology.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Dr. Jennifer Raff

    Dr. Jennifer Raff

    Principal Investigator
    Associate Professor, Anthropology
    Director of Graduate Studies
    Indigenous Studies Program Affiliate Faculty
    She/her/hers

    My research examines the histories of human populations in North America using genomes from both contemporary and ancestral populations. I investigate the initial peopling of the Americas, the peopling of the North American Arctic, regional population histories and mortuary practices of the Eastern Woodlands and the Great Plains, and the impact of European colonization. I’m also involved in projects related to ethics in genetics research with Indigenous peoples, genomics capacity building among Indigenous communities, and public scientific literacy. My students and I take an engaged, collaborative approach to research with tribes. We believe that genetics is a useful tool that can complement Indigenous knowledge in obtaining a better understanding of the past and the lives of ancestors.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Dr. Lauren Norman

    Dr. Lauren Norman

    Assistant Teaching Professor
    She/her/hers

    My research examines the resilience of small-scale societies during periods of environmental and social change. I employ molecular methods to supplement traditional studies of faunal material in investigating the relationship between people and their environment. I am especially interested in community-based research in the north and with multi-vocal interpretations of the past.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Dr. Justin Tackney

    Dr. Justin Tackney

    Associate Researcher Senior
    He/him/his

    My research focuses on population and evolutionary genetics, specifically as it relates to the initial peopling of the Americas and to the subsequent human migrations across the North American and Siberian Arctic during the Holocene. My work would not be possible without support from, and collaboration with, the local communities of Indigenous peoples who are interested and invested in genetic research.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Dr. Kristine G. Beaty

    Dr. Kristine G. Beaty

    Laboratory Coordinator
    She/her/hers

    My research examines human migration and population history using molecular data from contemporary and ancestral communities, particularly throughout the Americas.

    Curriculum Vitae

Graduate Students

  • Christopher Barrett

    Christopher Barrett

    Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Dennis O’Rourke

    Originally from the Pacific Northwest, I joined the Ancient DNA and Anthropological Genetics research facilities at the University of Kansas in August 2016. Broadly, my research focuses on how genomic and epigenomic data from ancient DNA (aDNA) can be applied toward biological and anthropological questions. My dissertation uses ancient genomic and geochemical techniques to reconstruct genetic, demographic, and environmental histories in the western Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Kevin Chovanec

    Kevin Chovanec

    Ph.D. Candidate, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
    Adviser: Dr. Richard Glor

  • Shawna Fitzwater

    Shawna Fitzwater

    Ph.D. Student, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Dennis O’Rourke

    My research examines ancient DNA (aDNA) through the use of molecular genetic methods to address pre-history human migratory patterns across the North American arctic. My prior research focused on zoonotic diseases, specifically host-pathogen interaction, as well as vaccine research and development.

  • Savannah (Vanna) Hay

    Savannah (Vanna) Hay

    Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Raff
    She/her/hers

    My research involves utilizing ancient DNA as a means to provide a powerful resolution for understanding the genomic effects of European colonization on three Alaskan Native populations. By studying ancient and contemporary genomes from the same population, I hope to unveil regional patterns of population movement and admixture that have resulted in the population structure seen in Alaskan Native groups today.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Josie Muskrat

    Josie Muskrat

    Ph.D. Student, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Raff

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Bethany Potter

    Bethany Potter

    Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Frederic Sellet
    She/her/hers

    I am an archaeologist currently working on optimizing a protocol for extracting DNA from lithic artifacts. My dissertation research is focused on Western Clovis mobility, integrating data from aDNA from stone tools and debris.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Lydia Sykora

    Lydia Sykora

    Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Raff
    She/her/hers

    I am specializing in ancient DNA and the interpretations of human migration patterns. I’m broadly interested in the peopling of the Americas, but specifically filling in gaps of the genetic prehistory of ancient peoples on the Plains.

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Sarah Unkel

    Sarah Unkel

    Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Dennis O’Rourke
    She/her/hers

    My research utilizes ancient DNA to answer questions regarding the peopling of the Americas with a focus on the Western North American Arctic. I am currently working on a collaborative project with the Indigenous community of Utqiaġvik, Alaska and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to evaluate genetic population history and ancestral relations among the contemporary Inuit of the Alaskan North Slope and the ancient Birnirk Inuit tradition. This research was supported by the NSF Polar Program grant #1523160, Collaborative Research: People, Landscape, and Narratives in Time-Birnirk and the Emergence of Inupiaq Culture in Northwestern Alaska, as well as the University of Kansas Ancient DNA Research Facility.

    Curriculum Vitae

Undergraduate Researchers

  • Maggie Penrod

    Maggie Penrod

    Anthropology, Pre-Medicine
    She/her/hers

  • Abby (Mary) Vaughn

    Abby (Mary) Vaughn

    Anthropology
    She/her/hers

    Curriculum Vitae

  • Emily Ward

    Emily Ward

    Anthropology and Political Science
    She/her/hers

    Curriculum Vitae

Previous Graduate Student Researchers

  • Sarah Alden
    Masters, 2017, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Michael Crawford

  • Brittany Bingham

    Brittany Bingham

    Masters, 2022, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Raff

  • Dr. Caroline Kisielinski

    Dr. Caroline Kisielinski

    PhD, 2023, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Dennis O’Rourke
    2023 David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow

    Curriculum Vitae

  • McKenna Lohr

    McKenna Lohr

    Masters, 2022, Anthropology
    Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Raff

Previous Undergraduate Researchers

  • Brystol Bates – State of Kansas Department of Health and Environment
    Lori Fifield
    Emily Kimball
    Maggie Kovach
    Madison Rice – Medical School @ Oklahoma State University
    Emma Young
    Deb Roy

Get in Touch

    Please feel free to contact us with questions, concerns, or inquiries. We are particularly eager to hear from potential collaborators, potential graduate or undergraduate students, and any community members interested in or affected by our past or current research projects. This form can also be used for any press inquiries, or if you are interested in making a private or public donation to the KU Anthropological Genetics Research Facilities.