For the Love of Anthropology

I am in love, in absolute heaven.  The joy of finding your passion and having the opportunity of doing it is something that is just amazing.  I started my internship in a lab that deals mostly with molecular and human genetics.  I just graduated with my BA in Anthropology and before I get into grad school for physical anthropology I need to accumulate as much experience in the field, anywhere I can get it.  Since I am interested in population genetics this lab is a perfect fit.  It has published numerous papers in reputable journals, and has an exceptional DNA bank to carry out extensive work from.

Here is a brief synopsis of what the field of physical anthropology encompasses:

Biological anthropology (also known as bioanthropology and physical anthropology) is that branch of anthropology that studies the physical development of the human species. It plays an important part in paleoanthropology (the study of human origins) and in forensic anthropology (the analysis and identification of human remains for legal purposes). It draws upon human anthropometrics (body measurements), human genetics (molecular anthropology) and human osteology (the study of bones) and includes neuroanthropology, the study of human brain evolution, and of culture as neurological adaptation to environment.  (thanks Wikipedia!)

I am just learning the ropes, which is a slow and time consuming process both in and out of the lab for me (specially since my background in biology is very limited).  I have been given daily research articles to read; for both the purpose of learning and correcting any grammatical errors.

Right now I am absolutely fascinated with Haplogroups and mutations that can appear in each. Haplogroups are used to represent the major branch points on the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree. There are six major Haplogroups. Understanding the evolutionary path of the female lineage (which is done through the mtDNA- mitochondrial DNA) has helped population geneticists trace the matrilineal inheritance of modern humans back to human origins in Africa and the subsequent spread across the world.

This picture shows human migration based on mtDNA. Notice how it all starts in Africa and migrates all the way to South America.

Currently I am helping (very minimally, it’s more like learning) on the mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA is only passed through the female and of the Haitian population.  This research helps indentify the demographic makeup of Haitians.  The results so far from the mtDNA has helped shed light on the vast demographic makeup of Haiti .  The research shows that much of their population is descendant from Africa, but helps with identifying the regions within Africa; Northern, Eastern, or Western Africa.  Due to the salve trade and colonization of Haiti one would think that it would mostly have European, and West African Haplogroups present, but East Africa has shown as well ( a lot actually, L3).  This can only mean that migration occurred in Africa from East to West. This is all very fascinating!  I hope to catch up as quickly as I possibly and start on my own research soon… which they they have expressed I would eventually have to do (Exciting!!!)

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