CEM Seminar-Christina Warinner

Spring CEM Seminars Christina Warinner

Presidential Research Professor
Assistant professor of Anthropology
University of Oklahoma
Reconstructing our ancient microbial self: the evolutionary ecology of the human microbiome
The advent of high throughput metagenomic sequencing has revealed a startling fact - that our bodies are not merely ourselves. Microorganisms comprise 90% of our cells, contain 99% of our genes, and perform vital functions in digestion, immunity, and homeostasis. And while we have made great strides in revealing the diversity, variation, and evolution of the human genome, we know surprisingly little about the microbial portion of ourselves, our microbiome. Recently it has been discovered that dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) entraps a rich biomolecular record of the oral microbiome that preserves for thousands of years. Metagenomic and metaproteomic analyses of ancient dental calculus have revealed a wide range of commensal and pathogenic bacterial taxa, bacteriophages, human and dietary biomolecules, and an abundance of DNA “dark matter” from unknown and uncharacterized organisms. Recovering ancient organisms from this metagenomic soup is a difficult task, but advances in sequencing technologies and bioinformatics tools are making this goal increasingly feasible. This talk discusses the successful applications, methodological challenges, and future possibilities of using dental calculus to reconstruct ancient human diet, health, and disease.
Dr. Warinner earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010, and received her postdoctoral training at the University of Zurich (2010-2012) and the University of Oklahoma (2012-2014). Since 2014, she is a Presidential Research Professor and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, and she is pioneering the study of ancient human microbiomes. Dr. Warinner published the first high resolution genomic and proteomic characterization of the ancient oral microbiome, and her research has been featured in Science, Cell, Nature Genetics, Nature Reviews Microbiology, and the New Scientist. She has presented before the Royal Society of London, the National Academy of Sciences, and on behalf of the Leakey Foundation. She is a 2014 Kavli Fellow and a 2012 TED Fellow, and her TED Talks on ancient dental calculus and the evolution of the human diet have been viewed more than a million times