Christina Marie Balentine

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Texas, Austin, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10095

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Balentine, Christina (Texas, Austin, U. of) "Investigating adaptation in ancient and contemporary Indigenous peoples of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego"

Humans thrive in diverse and extreme environments thanks to both biological and sociocultural mechanisms. Natural selection, niche construction, and cultural innovations all play unique roles in people’s abilities to thrive around the world. However, significant gaps remain in our understanding of each of these processes and how they contribute, individually and collectively, to human flourishing in extreme environments. This project will take a novel biocultural approach to studying genetic adaptation in ancient and contemporary peoples from Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. I will integrate newly collected genomic data with archaeological, historical, and ethnographic evidence to clarify how biological and social environments interact to shape human biology. This project seeks to shed light on parallel adaptation to high-latitude environments, where cold temperatures and limited diets may act as selective stressors similar to those observed in Arctic populations. Additionally, this will be one of the first studies to consider adaptation to sociohistorical contexts by specifically investigating signals of adaptation driven by the pathogenic environment introduced during Spanish colonization. This is especially relevant today, where once again we are witnessing pandemics and racial violence. This research will therefore shed light on biocultural adaptive responses to biological and social environments past and present.