Senate Faculty

Lars Fehren-Schmitz
  • Title
    • Professor
    • Director of Graduate Studies
    • Associate Director of the UCSC Genomics Institute
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Anthropology Department
  • Affiliations Genomics Institute, Science & Justice Research Center, Institute for Social Transformation, Biomolecular Science & Engineering, Archaeological Research Center
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Social Sciences 1, 301
  • Mail Stop Social Sciences 1 Faculty Services
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Ancient DNA, Archaeology, Human Biology, Population Biology, Molecular Evolution, Ecology, Anthropology, Evolution

Summary of Expertise

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

Research Interests

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.

Biography, Education and Training

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


Teaching Interests

Human Variability
Human Ecology
Anthropological Genetics