Research Activities

This page features recent publications, conference presentations, and research talks by UTM Anthropology faculty and graduate students. Learn more about our faculty research interests. Follow our department on Twitter for updates.


Leela McKinnon, Dr. David Samson and colleagues published an article entitled Technological infrastructure, sleep, and rest-activity patterns in a Kaqchikel Maya community in PLOS ONE. The study results suggest that industrialization does not inherently reduce characteristics of sleep quality; instead, the safety and comfort afforded by technological development may improve sleep, and an intermediate degree of environmental exposure and technological buffering may support circadian rhythm strength and stability. (Posted November 18, 2022)

Dr. Frank Wendt and colleagues published an article in the journal JAMA Network Open investigating genetic variants associated with maximum habitual alcohol intake. Their work contextualizes the spectrum of alcohol consumption and problematic use to further solidify the notion that recreational consumption is fundamentally different than problematic reliance on alcohol. Link: Genome-Wide Investigation of Maximum Habitual Alcohol Intake in US Veterans in Relation to Alcohol Consumption Traits and Alcohol Use Disorder(Posted November 9, 2022)

Dr. Frank Wendt and collaborators at Yale, the University of Barcelona, and University of Rome “Tor Vergata” recently published an article in the journal BMC Biology describing the contribution of Neanderthal and Denisovan introgression to the common variant genetic architectures of complex traits in modern humans. Their work highlights a specific contribution of Denisovan introgression in East Asian populations with respect to circulating biomarkers. Link: Denisovan and Neanderthal archaic introgression differentially impacted the genetics of complex traits in modern populations(Posted November 9, 2022)

Dual MD/MBA candidate Andrea Quintero Reis and UTM undergraduate Brendan Newton, trainees in Dr. Frank Wendt’s research group, recently posted a preprint to medRxiv describing a genomic-structural equation model of the thoughts and behaviors associated with death by suicide. Their work demonstrates the cross-ancestry portability of a suicidality polygenic score and shows one path forward for statistically powerful genetic studies of sensitive self-report data. Link: Functional and molecular characterization of suicidality factors using phenotypic and genome-wide data(Posted November 9, 2022)

Recently published in Biological Psychiatry, Dr. Frank Wendt and international colleagues through the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Working Group uncovered a causal relationship between the genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Their genetics findings were supported by an population-based (N>2-million) comparison of siblings. Link: The Relationship of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Two-Sample Mendelian Randomization and Population-Based Sibling Comparison Study(Posted November 9, 2022)

Dr. Esteban Parra and a former UTM undergraduate student, Phuong Le, are listed as co-authors in a paper describing the most ambitious effort to characterize the genetic architecture of height, which has been published in the prestigious journal Nature. See also News and Views commentary in Nature describing the impact of this project and highlighting future avenues of research. (Posted October 31, 2022)

Professor Alicia Hawkins along with colleague Dr. Heather Walder co-authored a book chapter entitled Characterizing glass recipes for distinctive polychrome glass bead types in Ontario, Canada in The Elemental Analysis of Glass Beads: Technology, Chronology and Exchange, published by Leuven University Press. (Posted October 19, 2022)

Professor Monica Ramsey and her collaborators have a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The study shows that it is possible to automate the detection and classification of phytoliths with a high-level of accuracy, up to a species level. This method has the potential to allow the development of much larger analytical datasets in a fraction of the time than was previously feasible, as well as to assure consistency in phytolith identification and increase the validity of sample analysis. (Posted October 11, 2022)

Dr. Trevor Orchard is among a team of collaborators on a research project entitled “Iroquoian-Pikeperch Interactions on the North Shore of Lake Ontario: A Genetic Perspective” which is funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant recently awarded to Dr. Thomas Royle (Simon Fraser University). This project seeks to better understand past use of and the historical ecology of prominent fish species, walleye and sauger, in southern Ontario through a program of small scale ancient DNA and isotopic analysis of fish remains from legacy faunal assemblages from past archaeological work in the region. (Posted October 6, 2022)

Dr. Trevor Orchard, Dr. Alicia Hawkins, and their collaborators have just published a paper entitled “Considering passenger pigeon abundance and distribution in the Late Woodland zooarchaeological record of southern Ontario, Canada”. The paper, published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, demonstrates that passenger pigeon remains are consistently among the most abundant bird remains in archaeological sites dating from roughly the 12th to the 17th centuries CE, although their abundance varies through time. (Posted September 27, 2022)

graph figure from article
Figure from article.

Marla Mendes, a former PhD co-supervised by Dr. Esteban Parra and now a postdoc at the University of Toronto, has published an article in the journal Plos One (Identifying signatures of natural selection in Indian populations) describing genomic regions that may have been under positive selection in Indian populations. (Posted September 20, 2022)

Dr. Esteban Parra and a former UTM undergraduate student, Phuong Le, are co-authors of an article recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. This article, in collaboration with numerous researchers throughout the world, provides interesting insights on regulatory mechanisms that are relevant in lipid biology. (Posted September 20, 2022)

Dr. David Samson and colleagues recently published an article in the journal Social Science & Medicine (Links between household and family social dynamics with sleep profiles among BaYaka foragers of the Congo Basin). The results highlight the importance of local socio-ecological conditions to sleep. (Posted September 20, 2022)

In collaboration with University of Toronto Mississauga Biomedical Communications Program (Marc Dryer), MSc student Michelle (Michie) Wu, for her final thesis project, has created a novel and invaluable teaching aid for the Forensic Science Program and the forensic genetics community on the topic of DNA mixture deconvolution. The video has been published online via free access on YouTube(Posted August 22, 2022)

Co-authored by doctoral students Rachel Shadoff and Mary-Anne Panoyan, Dr. Nicole Novroski published a comprehensive review on the state of Microbial Forensics, with an emphasis on bioinformatic analyses, in Forensic Genomics. For both Rachel and Mary-Anne, this manuscript is their inaugural publication as academic scholars. (Posted August 22, 2022)

Via invitation from the journal, Dr. Nicole Novroski was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Forensic Genomics, the exclusive journal of ISHI (International Symposium on Human Identification). View the formal announcement of Dr. Novroski's appointment. (Posted August 22, 2022)

Stephen Scharper co-presented with Hilary Cunningham at the Harvard Divinity "Ecological Spiritualities" Conference. The topic was "Sanctuary for all Lives: Sustainability and the Sacred in a Refugee Context". (Posted August 19, 2022)

Disorders with internalizing symptoms (such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression) show stark sex differences in symptom patterns, age of onset, and comorbid or co-occurring conditions. One such co-occurring personality trait is neuroticism, characterized by negative affect, anger, irritability, and emotional instability. Dr. Frank Wendt and colleagues recently identified sex-specific factors influencing neuroticism including potential biomarkers relevant for disorder status (Sex-specific genetic and transcriptomic liability to neuroticism - ScienceDirect). These findings contribute novel hypotheses for understanding the role of biological sex in the presentation, etiology, and relative risk of psychiatric disorders with neurotic symptoms. (Posted August 19, 2022)

Dr. Lauren Schroeder and colleagues recently published a paper in Scientific Reports entitled “Skull variation in Afro-Eurasian monkeys results from both adaptive and non-adaptive evolutionary processes”. This study illuminates how evolution has acted to shape skull diversity across Afro-Eurasian monkeys, which helps us better understand evolutionary relationships and can aid in addressing issues relevant to primate conservation. (Posted July 29, 2022)

Dr. Frank Wendt and colleagues recently published a large genetic study of opioid use disorder in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Their study focused on individuals of European and African ancestry and used multi-trait analysis of opioid use disorder to identify 19 independently associated loci and associated biological underpinnings of OUD. (Posted July 26, 2022)

Dr. Larsen published a co-authored article in the The Lancet Psychiatry, entitled, "More phenomenology in psychiatry? Applied ontology as a method towards integration". In this piece, the authors outline a novel method on how to capture data about "first-person experiences" in mental health research. The challenge of including data about first-person experiences in research efforts is a long-standing issue that has yet to be sufficiently resolved, but also a challenge that, if mitigated, has the potential to propel research innovation and expand our knowledge about mental health diagnostics, causation, treatment, etc. (Posted July 15, 2022)

Dr. Frank Wendt was a runner-up for UK Biobank Early Career Researcher of the Year for his work associating tandem repetitive elements with phenotypic outcomes in 150,000 individuals. This work was presented at the 2022 UK Biobank Scientific Conference and informs many future studies of genetic factors influencing with health, behavior, and disease. (Posted July 15, 2022)

Dr. Frank Wendt is the recent recipient of a conference travel award from the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics Early Career Investigator Program. He will attend the World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics meeting in Florence, Italy to present his work linking empathy and childhood maltreatment to posttraumatic stress. This work will be presented as part of a collaborative symposium with leading PTSD researchers from around the world. (Posted July 15, 2022)

eye with different colours
Image from Pixabay.

Dr. Frida Lona-Durazo, a former graduate student in Dr. Esteban Parra’s group, has recently published a paper in the journal iScience. The article describes the genetic architecture of eye colour in a large Canadian cohort of European ancestry. This research uncovered several candidate causal variants responsible for the fascinating diversity of eye colour in human populations. The article also explored the potential role of gene expression and DNA methylation on eye colour variation. (Posted July 14, 2022)

Some of the research on pottery that archaeologist Dr. Alicia Hawkins and colleagues have been doing for the last five years is now on display in a temporary exhibit at the Huron-Wendat Museum in Wendake, Quebec. The exhibit will be displayed starting July 7, 2022. (Posted July 14, 2022)

Remote, northern communities face unique challenges with the adoption of renewable energy. Dr. Tracey Galloway is working closely with community partners in Yukon and Northern Ontario that are considering stationary and mobile energy solutions designed to work well in cold climates. This community-informed, northern focus is a key element of a new NSERC CREATE training platform based at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and led by Dr. Cristina Amon. The new CREATE platform is featured this month in UofT Engineering News(Posted June 15, 2022)

Dr. Esteban Parra is one of the senior authors of a recent study describing the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAs) of anthropometric traits (body mass index, height, and BMI-adjusted waist-to-hip ratio) in a large Hispanic/Latino sample, which was recently published in the journal HGG Advances. This research uncovered several novel genetic variants associated with these traits. (Posted May 17, 2022)

Dr. Esteban Parra and his Mexican colleagues participated in a comprehensive study of the genetics of type 2 diabetes (T2D), which included more than 180 thousand affected individuals and 1.1 million controls of diverse ancestry. The results of this large-scale collaborative research were published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics. This ambitious study identified hundreds of genetic markers increasing T2D risk and showed that the inclusion of samples from diverse populations resulted in enhanced fine-mapping resolution and better transferability of T2D prediction scores across populations. (Posted May 17, 2022)

UTM Anthropology was well represented at the recent Canadian Archaeological Association annual conference held as a hybrid conference, with both online components and in-person components in Edmonton, AB, which took place from April 27th to 30th, 2022. Several of our undergraduate students contributed virtual posters to the conference: Mahalia Johnna Baguio and Ya Qi Mo contributed a poster titled (Re-)Imagining the Schreiber Wood Landscape: Digital Reconstructions of 19th Century Settler Occupations at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and Yunfei Lin and Kiara Kim contributed a poster titled 3D Reconstruction of a Cultural Landscape: Interpreting Shadowmere of the Schreiber Estate. The poster by Mahalia and Ya Qi was recognized as the best undergraduate student poster presented at the conference. Dr. Alicia Hawkins and colleagues organized an online session that explored the theme of Making Small Changes to Investigate Big Ideas: Minimally Invasive and Non-destructive Analytical Approaches. This session included several papers with UTM co-authors: Dr. Trevor Orchard, Dr. Suzanne Needs-Howarth, Dr. Alicia Hawkins, and Dr. Louis Lesage presented a paper titled Faunal Analysis without Getting Our Hands Dirty: Meta-Analysis of Legacy Zooarchaeological Data from the Lower Great Lakes; Tyaibah Biswas, a UTM undergraduate student, along with Trevor Orchard and Alicia Hawkins presented a paper titled Big Fish, Small Fish: Exploring Wendat Fishing Practices through Osteometric Analysis of Yellow Perch Remains; Dr. Gregory Braun, along with his co-author Dr. Amy St. John, presented a paper titled Technological choices past and present: minimizing destructive analyses in pottery studies. (Posted May 2, 2022)

Dr. Madeleine Mant was awarded the annual John Armstrong Prize by the British Commission for Maritime History for her paper "For those in peril on and off the sea: Merchant marine bodies in nineteenth-century St. John’s, Newfoundland", published in the International Journal of Marine History. The John Armstrong Prize is awarded annually for "the best article in the field of maritime economic history published in any peer-reviewed, scholarly journal during the previous year". (Posted April 28, 2022)

Dr. Sherry Fukuzawa was awarded 2021-22 Early Career Teaching Award and Teaching Fellowship at U of T. Dr. Fukuzawa is currently involved in research "investigating ways to utilize technology to implement problem-based learning experiences across disciplines. She is also a founding member of the Indigenous Action Group (IAG) where she fosters and facilitates community-engaged learning (CEL) and community-initiated research (CIR) in partnership with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation." (Posted April 28, 2022)


medical anthropology and cover of The History and Bioethics of Medial Education "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught"

The History and Bioethics of Medical Education "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught", co-edited by Dr. Madeleine Mant, is included in this year's annual Celebration of Books at UTM(Posted April 7, 2022)

Dr. Alicia Hawkins, Dr. Trevor Orchard, Dr. Suzanne Needs-Howarth and colleagues published a study of intra-analyst variation in the identification of zooarchaeological specimens in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. They demonstrate that analyst experience is an important contributor to accurate taxonomic and skeletal element identification and provide recommendations to improve training of novice analysts. (Posted March 28, 2022)

Professor Stephen Scharper authored a book chapter "From Creation Chaos to Creaturely Solidarity: The Comingling of Faith and the Fate of the Earth" in For the Sake of the Common Good: Essays in Honour of Lois Wilson, McGill-Queens University Press, 2022. (Posted March 21, 2022)

Dr. Alicia Hawkins and colleagues recently co-edited the special issue of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, focusing on Current Archaeology of the Huron-Wendat and St. Lawrence Iroquoians. The issue features several UTM and U of T authors and co-authors. (Posted January 31, 2022)

Dr. Alicia Hawkins and colleagues published “Nueva Cádiz” in the Americas: A Preliminary Compositional Comparison of Layered Beads from the 16th and 17th Centuries Beads in the Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers. Link to full text (PDF) through ResearchGate(Posted January 31, 2022)

Drs. Tracey Galloway and Sarah Hillewaert are part of a UTM-led team that was recently awarded $199,000 for their project “Understanding the COVID-19 Journeys and Vaccine Experiences of Racialized and Immigrant Communities in the Greater Toronto Area”. The project team includes Undergraduate and Graduate students from UTM who are analyzing COVID-19 case and vaccination data and conducting interviews with people living in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. The team is co-led by Dr. Galloway along with Drs. Matthew Adams and Kathi Wilson, UTM Department of Geography, Geomatics & Environment, and is supported by colleagues from Anthropology, Geography, Geomatics & Environment, Historical Studies, and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Community partners include the Newcomer Centre of Peel, the Centre for Connected Communities, Peel Region Public Health and Trillium Health Partners’ Institute for Better Health. (Posted January 19, 2022)


lipid vesicles

Dr. Esteban Parra and his colleagues from Mexico are co-authors of a very large study of the genetics of blood lipid levels including hundreds of scientists throughout the world. The results of this study have been published in the prestigious journal Nature. The sample included approximately 1.65 million individuals, including 350,000 of non-European ancestries. The study identified many novel genetic variants influencing blood lipid levels (LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and non-HDL-cholesterol). Importantly, the study highlights the importance of including diverse populations in Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS). The authors of the study reported that increasing diversity resulted in improvement of fine-mapping efforts to identify putative functional variants, and the transferability of lipid concentration predictions using Polygenic Risk Scores (PRS) to multiple population groups. (Posted January 18, 2022)

Professor Sarah Hillewaert published an article in the latest issue of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, in honour of Judith Irvine. The article is called: Reimagining Linguistic Heritage: Or How Mother Tongue Speakers Re‐create Their Language. (Posted January 18, 2022)

Professor Sarah Hillewaert co-edited the special section for the latest volume of Religion and Society. Dr. Hillewaert co-authored the introduction to the special section, and contributed an article as well. The introduction’s title is: Communities Reimagining Sharedness in Belief and Practice. Dr. Hillewaert's article is Discourses, Bodies, and Questions of Sharedness in Kenya’s Wellness Communities(Posted January 18, 2022)

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