Research Activities

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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 X for updates.

Medical anthropologist Dr. Madeleine Mant and historian Dr. Martin Revermann (Historical Studies) will examine the ways that the sciences and theatre as performance interact, via the The Theatre of Science 2024-25 UTM-JHI Seminar. (Posted May 24, 2024)

Dr. Nicole Novroski has an article entitled "Police Are Using Your Publicly Available DNA to Solve Crimes. That’s a Good Thing." in U of T Magazine (Posted May 13, 2024)

Adjunct Professor Dr. Laura Bolt was lead author on a study titled "Conservation education initiatives for elementary school students at La Suerte Biological Research Station, Costa Rica" published in Folia Primatologica. This study details the formation of a conservation education outreach program for elementary school students at La Suerte Biological Research Station in Costa Rica, which is operated by the conservation non-profit organization Maderas Rainforest Conservancy. Dr. Bolt is a member of the board of directors for Maderas Rainforest Conservancy and also leads primate field schools for UTM students at the La Suerte site in Costa Rica. (Posted April 24, 2024)

Adjunct Professor Dr. Laura Bolt's publication "Maderas Rainforest Conservancy: A One Health approach to conservation" was named the most-cited article in American Journal of Primatology during 2022-2023. It was previously named the most-cited article in American Journal of Primatology during 2021-2022. This paper details the ecological, conservation, outreach, and community-building work of the non-profit organization Maderas Rainforest Conservancy, which is dedicated to protecting tropical forests and surrounding communities in Central America. (Posted April 24, 2024)

Stephen Scharper gave a talk entitled "From the Stars to the Street: Cosmology, Climate Chaos, and Environmental Activism" on March 7, 2024 at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University. (Posted March 18, 2024)

Congratulations to Dr. Alicia Hawkins and collaborators at the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation and the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF), who received a Connaught Community Partnership Research Program award for their project exploring the cataloguing and reclamation of archaeological artifacts. View the full story at U of T Celebrates, and learn more about collaborative archaeology at UTM. (Posted March 18, 2024)

Dr. Esteban Parra is listed as a co-author in a reviewed pre-print published in the journal eLife. The paper, which includes multiple authors from the SCOURGE consortium and the COVID-19 Host Genetic Initiative, describes the results of the largest genome-wide association study of COVID-19 hospitalization conducted in Latin America, comprising more than 4,000 hospitalized COVID-19 cases. The study identified four significant associations, including two novel genomic regions. (Posted March 18, 2024)

Dr. Esteban Parra is listed as a co-author in a major study focused on the genetics of type 2 diabetes (T2D) published in the prestigious journal Nature. The article includes authors from institutions throughout the world, working under the umbrella of the newly established Type 2 Diabetes Global Genomics Initiative, and reported the results of a genome-wide association study including more than 2.5 million individuals. The study identified 1,289 independent association signals that map to 611 different genomic regions (including 145 previously unreported regions). Importantly, the genetic data identified different clusters of signals characterized by different cardiometabolic traits, highlighting the aetiological heterogeneity of T2D. (Posted March 18, 2024)

Adjunct Professor Dr. Laura Bolt published three articles in the last month.

Dr. Bolt was lead author on a study published in American Journal of Primatology showing that two monkey species in Costa Rica change their social behaviour when in human-altered areas of forest. Media coverage of the paper can be found at U of T News.

Dr. Bolt was a co-author for a paper in Conservation Letters detailing the importance of funding tropical field stations to enable effective biodiversity conservation. Media coverage of this paper can be found at EurekAlert.

Dr. Bolt was also co-author on a study in Primate Conservation that compared the population size of mantled howler monkeys in two different areas of Costa Rica, a small forest fragment and a large continuous forest, and found that monkey population density was much higher in the small fragment. This attests to their resilience in degraded landscapes, but also has implications for their long-term conservation.  (Posted March 18, 2024)

The graduate students from Winter 2023's seminar ANT3034H Advanced Research Seminar IV: Anthropology of Infectious Disease (Liam Ryan, Erica Fowler, Juliana Upchurch, Grace Gregory-Alcock, Adrianna Wiley, Alexandra Bernyck, Hannah Whitelaw, Dominick Roussel, Ellen Pacheco) and Dr. Madeleine Mant published a special issue of Synapsis: A Health Humanities Journal on the Anthropology of Infectious Disease. View all the articles here. (Posted January 22, 2024)

Dr. Madeleine Mant and colleagues published a case report in the International Journal of Paleopathology describing a 3500-year-old Nubian woman with rheumatoid arthritis. The antiquity and geographical spread of this condition have been controversial in the literature and this publication makes a strong case for the antiquity of this condition in Ancient Egypt. (Posted January 22, 2024)

Jack Sidnell is a recipient of a JHI Chancellor Jackman 6-month Faculty Research Fellowship in the Humanities for 2024-25 for his project Language Reform and Revolutionary Consciousness: Remaking Self and Society under Socialism in Vietnam. (Posted December 11, 2023)

Congratulations to Professor David R. Samson who was awarded the 2023 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy in Toronto on November 28 for his book Our Tribal Future: How to Channel our Foundational Human Instincts Into a Force for Good. Professor Samson offers a hopeful vision and explores how our tribal brains, which evolved to help us survive and cooperate in small groups, are ill-equipped to deal with the complex challenges of our globalized world. Samson’s book was praised by the award jury as “a tour de force of how our tribal brains operate in our modern world.” (Posted November 30, 2023)

Dr. Trevor Orchard, Dr. Alicia Hawkins, and their collaborators, have published an article in the latest issue of Arch Notes: The Newsletter of the Ontario Archaeological Society (PDF). Entitled "Considering Extinct, Extirpated, and Endangered Species in the Zooarchaeological Record of Southern Ontario", this article provides a synthesis of a number of recent and ongoing research projects that their collaborative research group has been undertaking. (Posted October 11, 2023)

Dr. David Samson’s study entitled "Evidence for an emotional adaptive function of dreams: a cross-cultural study" was published in Scientific Reports. This research delves into the function of dreams by drawing cross-cultural comparisons between the BaYaka and Hadza foraging groups and Global North populations. The study's analysis of 896 dreams suggests that dreams, particularly in forager societies, play a role in emotion regulation, reflecting strong societal norms and interpersonal support. The findings emphasize the evolutionary importance of dreams. (Posted October 3, 2023)

To support the Department of Biology and the ongoing research in Dr. Steven Chatfield's research program, Dr. Nicole Novroski participated in a podcast with Guiliana Giannini for the Beyond Med Podcast that focuses on Bio-careers, and exploring career pathways for biology undergrads beyond the scope of medical school and becoming a doctor. Listen to the podcast (requires a UTORid). (Posted September 29, 2023)

In collaboration with Amy Smuts of the UNT Center for Human Identification, Dr. Nicole Novroski recently presented to an audience of 1000 forensic experts and practitioners the findings of an on-going collaboration in the area of investigative genetic genealogy at the International Symposium on Human Identification. (Posted September 29, 2023)

Dr. Nicole Novroski was recently awarded two National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Awards in collaboration with the University of North Texas Health Science Center - Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI). She is co-Principal Investigator on a collaborative grant with Dr. Michael Coble, entitled Optimizing New STRs for Enhanced DNA Mixture Deconvolution ($513,169.00 USD). The second award is a collaborative initiative between the University of Toronto, the UNT Center for Human Identification and Sam Houston State University, where Dr. Novroski will act as a co-investigator on the grant: Democratizing Investigative Genetic Genealogy ($759,008.00 USD). (Posted September 29, 2023)

Professor Esteban Parra is a co-author of a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. The paper describes the results of a longitudinal study of COVID-19 patients from Brazil, led by Professors Andre Luchessi and Vivian Nogueira Silbiger from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil. A follow-up of the participants two years after infection indicated that a large proportion of the participants (more than 50%) reported persistence of symptoms after at least 13 weeks of infection. The most reported symptoms were fatigue, altered perceptions of smell and taste, and shortness of breath. Women and previously hospitalized participants showed higher risks of developing Post-Covid Condition (PCC), also known as long Covid. Professor Parra is currently collaborating with Professor Luchessi to investigate the mechanisms behind long COVID cognitive dysfunction, with funding from the Institute for Pandemics at UofT(Posted September 26, 2023)

Tracey Galloway is co-author of a study showing that grocers fail to pass along full Nutrition North food subsidy to shoppers. The article is published in the Journal of Public Economics(Posted September 21, 2023)

Madeleine Mant is co-author of a new study showing a link between institutionalization, hip fractures and death. The article entitled "Structural violence and institutionalized individuals: A paleopathological perspective on a continuing issue" is published in PLOS ONE(Posted September 21, 2023)

Professor Zoë Wool has a chapter entitled "Lessons in Yielding: Crip Refusal and Ethical Research Praxis," in the new book Crip Authorship: Disability as Method. (Posted September 21, 2023)

Congratulations to Lauren Schroeder and David Samson, recipients of 2023 UTM Annual Research Prizes, which UTM presents to outstanding early career faculty members based on their contributions to their fields. (Posted September 21, 2023)

PhD candidate Ashley Smith is co-author of an article entitled "Shifting the Forensic Anthropological Paradigm to Incorporate the Transgender and Gender Diverse Community." The article is posted on the MDPI journal Humans as part of the special issue "Contemporary Concerns and Considerations in Forensic Anthropology". (Posted July 13, 2023)

Congratulations to Lauren Schroeder, who has been named as one of this year’s SN 10: Scientists to Watch, the ScienceNews list of 10 early and mid-career scientists who are making extraordinary contributions to their field. Read about Dr. Schroeder's research in evolutionary anthropology in ScienceNews. (Posted July 12, 2023)

Cristina Abbatangelo, a PhD candidate mentored by Dr. Nicole Novroski, Dr. Frank Wendt and Dr. Esteban Parra, is the first author of a publication recently published in the journal Forensic Genomics. This review paper describes methods and tools for performing Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS), as well as post-GWAS analysis (such as fine mapping and colocalization), with a major focus on forensically relevant externally visible characteristics. (Posted June 15, 2023) 

covid-19 virus particles

Dr. Esteban Parra and his collaborator from Brazil Dr. Andre Luchessi are co-authors of an article recently published in the prestigious journal Nature. The paper reports novel variants associated with Covid-19 severity. Overall, 49 genome-wide significant associations were described, which is a substantial increase with respect to previous studies. Additionally, the study identified potentially druggable targets, which is relevant for future therapeutic efforts. (Posted June 14, 2023) 

Dr. Esteban Parra and Dr. Guilherme Debortoli, a former postdoc in his laboratory, are co-authors of a paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Based on whole-genome sequencing data from more than 1,000 individuals from Brazil, the study described the applicability of next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques for translating pharmacogenomic variants into clinically relevant phenotypes and discussed the feasibility of systematic adoption of PGx testing in Brazil. The first author of the article, Dr. Bertholim-Nasciben, was a visiting graduate student in Dr. Parra’s lab during her doctoral studies. (Posted June 14, 2023) 

Dr. Esteban Parra and Dr. Frida Lona-Durazo, a former graduate student who is currently a postdoc at Université de Montréal, are co-authors of an article published in the journal Communications Biology, from the Nature Research portfolio. This study is the result of a collaboration with investigators from the UK (University of Edinburgh). The paper describes the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of retinal vasculature (measured as fractal dimension, Df), which replicated previously known signals, and identified new putative loci. Importantly, the paper reports a significant correlation of retinal vasculature with coronary artery disease and proposes shared molecular mechanisms. Predicted models of myocardial infarction including Df performed better than models without this variable. (Posted June 14, 2023) 

Nina Adler, U of T Anthropology Research Assistant and incoming PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Frank Wendt and Dr. Esteban Parra, is a co-author on a recent Nature Communications publication from her previous position at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in collaboration with Dr. Dzana Dervovic and team led by Dr. Daniel Schramek at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. The article titled ‘In vivo CRISPR screens reveal Serpinb9 and Adam2 as regulators of immune therapy response in lung cancer’ involved the identification and functional validation of immune-modulatory effects of Serpinb9 and Adam2, which have implications for lung cancer treatment. We are excited to have Nina join our department and look forward to her continued successes. (Posted June 6, 2023)

Stephen Scharper gave the Sustainability Formal Dinner lecture on May 15, 2023 at Green Templeton College, Oxford University. The talk was entitled "Robert Hunter, Greenpeace Co-Founder, and the 'Diagnostic Moments' of His Environmental Activism". (Posted June 1, 2023)

David Samson has published a new book entitled Our Tribal Future: How to Channel Our Foundational Human Instincts into a Force for Good. The book "explores a central paradox of our species: how altruism, community, kindness, and genocide are all driven by the same core adaptation. Evolutionary anthropologist David R. Samson engages with cutting-edge science and philosophy, as well as his own field research with small-scale societies and wild chimpanzees, to explain the science, ethics, and history of tribalism in compelling and accessible terms." (May 30, 2023)

Michael Brand, Trevor Orchard, and Sarah Ranlett have published a short article entitled “The Archaeological Field School Comes to Campus: 10 Years of the Schreiber Wood Project at the University of Toronto Mississauga” in ArchNotes, the newsletter of the Ontario Archaeological Society. The article provides a brief overview and summary of the on-campus UTM Anthropology archaeological field school project that has been running annually for the past decade. (Posted May 16, 2023)

PhD candidate Ashley Smith presented “When Bone Lights Up: A novel way to label bone proteins & cells, and its potential uses” at the annual UTM Graduate Research Colloquium. (Posted May 16, 2023)

MSc student Eman Faisal (nominated by Professor Tracy Rogers) received a UTM Black, Indigenous, and Racialized Graduate Research Fellowship award. The award is co-sponsored by the Vice Dean, Graduate and UTM Principal. Recipients receive a research stipend plus an additional amount that can be allocated to eligible research expenses. (Posted May 16, 2023)

Ashley Moo-Choy presented her research at the UTM Graduate Research Colloquium on May 3rd, 2023, entitled "Evaluation of Transfer, Persistence, and Recovery of Touch DNA from Mobile Phones". Ashley's presentation is the second half of her Master's research work completed with Nicole Novroski, which was funded by the Forensic Sciences Foundation in 2022. Congratulations Ashley on completing your MRP! (Posted May 4, 2023)

Trudy McKnight and Mikisha Lyle, fourth year undergraduates, were recently awarded the Undergraduate Student Research Award for Black Students, issued by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Trudy and Mikisha will be working on exploring the population genetic structure of Canadian populations for forensic human identity applications with PI Nicole Novroski for the Summer 2023 term. (Posted May 4, 2023)

Stephen Scharper wrote the foreword for a book celebrating Greenpeace co-founder Robert Hunter. The book is entitled Mr. Mindbomb – Eco-Hero and Greenpeace Co-founder Bob Hunter: A Life in Stories (Vancouver: Rocky Mountain Books, 2023). Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd wrote the introduction, and The Hon. Elizabeth May, MP, of the Green Party, contributed the afterword. The book features insightful reflections and stories shared by family, friends, and colleagues of the renowned environmental activist. Read an excerpt of Professor Scharper's foreword (PDF). (Posted May 1, 2023)

Hayley Welsh, a PhD student in Dr. Esteban Parra’s lab, is the first author of a paper published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology. The paper evaluates how different normalization methods affect estimates of DNA methylation obtained with the Infinium EPIC array, which measures methylation status of more than 850,000 sites throughout the genome. The article also highlights how data normalization improves the reliability of methylation data, based on intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs). This research is part of a collaborative effort between Dr. Esteban Parra’s group, and researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada and the University of São Paulo in Brazil. (Posted April 21, 2023)

cover of book The News Event

Dr. Francis Cody has published a new book entitled The News Event: Popular Sovereignty in the Age of Deep Mediatization (University of Chicago Press, 2023). In the hypermediated world of Tamil Nadu, Dr. Cody studies how “news events” are made. Not merely the act of representing events with words or images, a “news event” is the reciprocal relationship between the events being reported in the news and the event of the news coverage itself. In The News Event, Francis Cody focuses on how imaginaries of popular sovereignty have been remade through the production and experience of such events. (Posted April 21, 2023)

Dr. Monica Ramsey has published a new paper entitled Ecological-cultural inheritance in the wetlands: the non-linear transition to plant food production in the southern Levant in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. The paper proposes the idea that wetlands provided Epipalaeolithic people with a ‘domestication laboratory’, where they could experiment and gain new knowledge, building the ecological-cultural inheritances necessary for the transition to plant food production. (Posted March 24, 2023)

Drs. Frank Wendt and Esteban Parra are the recipients of a Data Sciences Institute and McLaughlin Centre Polygenic Risk Score Grant. Their proposal titled ’Tandem repeat aware risk scores linking major depression and hippocampus volume’, aims to link hippocampus volume to depression using regions of the genome that expand and contract at appreciable frequencies in the general population. By focusing on regulatory regions of the genome, their findings are hypothesized to improve the cross-population portability of polygenic scores.” (Posted March 21, 2023)

Dr. Laura Bolt is the lead author for a paper that was recognized as the most cited article in American Journal of Primatology for 2021-2022. The paper is titled "Maderas Rainforest Conservancy: A One Health approach to conservation" and highlights the research and conservation work of the Maderas Rainforest Conservancy non-profit organization, where Dr. Bolt also leads a primate field school. (Posted March 1, 2023)

New evidence published by MSc graduate Noor Abbas and Dr. David Samson showed that pandemic dreamers in their study had more negative and unfamiliar features in their dreams than when awake. The article entitled "Dreaming during the COVID-19 pandemic: Support for the threat simulation function of dreams" appears in Frontiers in Psychology. (Posted February 6, 2023)

Dr’s Lauren Schroeder and Bence Viola were guests on the 50th Anniversary episode of the Leakey Foundation’s Lunch Break Science, a live-streamed public-facing outreach program. This episode was about debunking common misconceptions about evolution and can be streamed on Youtube(Posted January 24, 2023)

Dr. Lauren Schroeder and Prof. Rebecca Rogers Ackermann from the University of Cape Town recently published an invited article for the 50th Anniversary special issue of the Journal of Human Evolution (JHE). The piece is entitled “Moving beyond the adaptationist paradigm for human evolution, and why it matters”. In it, they write about hominin diversity and the importance of non-adaptive evolutionary processes (genetic drift, hybridization) in shaping our evolution, a narrative that has often been overlooked. They also track demographic change in the discipline of palaeoanthropology through author metrics in JHE, highlighting the historical exclusion of certain voices in the field, and call for a concerted field-wide effort to help increase the diversity of the narrators of our human story. (Posted January 24, 2023)

Undergraduate independent research student Luca Del Giacco was awarded the Davidson Black Award for the best in-person poster presentation at the Canadian Association for Biological Anthropology 2022 annual conference. Supervised by Dr. Lauren Schroeder, the poster is entitled: Does early Homo dental variation follow a neutral pattern of divergence?. Congratulations, Luca! (Posted January 24, 2023)

Dr. Mant and her team of undergraduate research assistants from the Jackman Humanities Institute Scholars in Residence 2022 program published a piece in Teaching Anthropology (early view) about their experiences working with archival hospital records. The team continues to investigate the healthcare experiences of 18th-century children in Northampton, UK and will be presenting their work at the 2023 Society for the History of Children and Youth Conference. (Posted January 17, 2023)

Dr. Mant and colleagues published an article in the International Journal of Paleopathology about a case of rickets in a 3-year-old child from 19th-century New York state. Paleopathological cases of rickets in North America are rare and this article contributes to a deeper geographical and temporal understanding of this condition. (Posted January 17, 2023)

Dr. Mant and Lauren Poeta (Western University) co-authored a chapter in the new Routledge Handbook of Paleopathology entitled "Defining the Margins, Embodying the Consequences." This work explores the state of the field regarding the health and disease burden of marginalized individuals in the past and calls for social justice in paleopathological research. (Posted January 17, 2023)

Dr. Esteban Parra and colleagues from Mexico are co-authors of a paper published in the Journal Genome Biology. This paper provides new insights into the biological mechanisms that lead to altered lipid levels. Based on a large multi-ancestry meta-analysis including more than 1.6 million individuals, this research prioritized putative causal genes involved in lipid metabolism, explored the relationships of genetically predicted lipid levels to other diseases and conditions, identified loci showing sex-biased effects, and reported 21 novel lipid loci identified on the X-Chromosome. (Posted January 17, 2023)

Dr. Esteban Parra is one of the senior authors of a paper published in the Journal Human Genetics and Genomics Advances. This research analyzed genetic data in a large Hispanic/Latino sample and discovered new genetic loci associated with Body Mass Index (BMI), height, and BMI-adjusted waist-to-hip ratio. (Posted January 17, 2023)


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