Kevin William Wann

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Texas A&M U.

Grant number

Gr. 10545

Approve Date

April 6, 2023

Project Title

Wann, Kevin (Texas A&M U.) "Uncovering the Domestication of the Avocado Through Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Archaeogenomes"

Avocados are super foods that serve a crucial role in global diets. My mission is to uncover how Pre-Columbians first domesticated this plant through both ethnographic and genomic lenses, and this is the first attempt at doing so. I plan to visit rural avocado gardeners throughout Central America, ask them questions regarding their cultivation strategies, and collect wild specimens. I will also participate in their avocado harvesting to gain firsthand experience with Central American traditional ecological knowledge. I will then extract and compare wild, archaeological, and traditionally cultivated avocado genomes to that of modern commercial cultivars. These ancient plant genomes will be of ancient avocado rinds excavated from the El Gigante Rockshelter, Honduras. After combining the ethnographic and genomic data, we will have a deeper understanding of how early New World occupants first brought avocado under domestication and how traditional cultivation strategies have changed over time. We will know from where ancient communities first cultivated avocados, how they propagated their trees, and which fruit or vegetative traits were under selection at different times. This study is critical for the preservation of the ancient systems of food production and the conservation of avocados in the face of climate change.