Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute
Christina Warinner is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. She is also a group leader in the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and a member of the faculty of biological sciences at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany.
Warinner specializes in biomolecular archaeology, with an emphasis on reconstructing the prehistory of human foods and the evolution of the microbiome. She is known for her pioneering work in ancient DNA and proteins research, which has contributed significant insights into prehistoric human health, the ancestral human microbiome, the origins of dairying, and past human population history. In 2014 she published the first detailed metagenomic and metaproteomic characterization of the ancient human oral microbiome, and in 2015, she published a seminal study on the identification of milk proteins in ancient dental calculus and the reconstruction of prehistoric European dairying practices. In the same year, she was also part of a research team that published the first South American hunter-gatherer gut microbiome and identified Treponema as a key missing ancestral microbe in the gut microbiome of industrialized societies. Later, she demonstrated that full mitochondrial genomes could be recovered from dental calculus, opening new opportunities for less destructive methods of collaborative paloeogenomics research with Native American tribes and communities. In 2016 she and her colleagues reconstructed the early population history of the Himalayas and published the first complete genomes of ancient East Asians, and in 2018 her team identified the earliest direct evidence of dairying on the East Asian steppe. Her work has additionally contributed to identifying the cause of the 1545 Mexican cocoliztli epidemic and to revealing the roles of women in medieval book production. She is currently leading a large multidisciplinary project in Mongolia combining archaeology, ethnography, microbiology, and microbiome sciences to understand the origins of dairying and the rich and complex history of human cultural and biological adaptations to novel foods.
She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in leading scientific journals such as Nature Genetics, PNAS, Science Advances, Current Biology, Nature Communications, Current Anthropology, Latin American Antiquity, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, and the Journal of Archaeological Science, as well as two books: Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany (University Press of Colorado) and Ancient Maya Color (University of Texas Press). She has contributed to eighth edition of Renfrew and Bahn’s Archaeology: Theory, Methods, and Practice, as well as to books on the prehistory of Mexico and Alaska. Warinner has served on funding review panels for the US National Institutes of Health and the European Commission, and she currently serves on the editorial board of Scientific Reports. Warinner strives to make her research and data as accessible as possible, and since 2014, 75% of her journal research articles are available in open access format. Additionally, all published genomic and proteomic datasets generated by her lab are available in open access online repositories through NCBI, ENA, and ProeomeXchange.
Warinner is a 2014 US National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and a 2012 TED Fellow, and her TED Talks have been viewed more than 2 million times. In addition to her research, she is actively engaged in scientific and public outreach and has spoken around the world, ranging from classroom visits to public lectures in partnership with the Leakey Foundation, the Royal Society of London, the Wellcome Trust, EMBL, the American Museum of Natural History, the California Academy of Sciences, the Sino-Danish Center, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Currently, she is co-organizing the 2019 Wenner Gren Symposium on “Cultures of Fermentation” in Cascais, Portugal and the 2019 German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung “Microbes on the Move” conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Warinner was named one of the Top 10 Scientists to Watch in 2017 by Science News, and her work was featured in the PBS NOVA documentary “Secrets of the Sky Tombs”. In 2017, she created the Adventures in Archaeological Science coloring book, now available in more than 20 languages, including many indigenous and underrepresented languages.
Warinner received her MA and PhD at Harvard University and completed her postdoctoral training at the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zürich, Switzerland and the University of Oklahoma. She was previously a presidential research professor and assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and visiting associate professor at the Technical University of Denmark.
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