QARGMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesQuarternary and Anthropocene Research GroupUniversity of Cincinnati

QARG Members

Heather Norton

Heather Norton
Norton's Research
Department of Anthropology
Associate Professor

Dr. Norton’s research explores the roles of natural selection and non–neutral demographic processes in shaping patterns of genetic and phenotypic diversity in modern human populations. Her work focuses on using a hypothesis–driven framework to understand the various ways in which humans have adapted to diverse array of environmental conditions following their expansion out of Africa. In her research she utilizes both genetic and genomic data, as well as computer–based simulations, to characterize how allele frequencies change over time in the response to varying selection pressures and/or changes in population size. She has used skin pigmentation as a model trait for studying the effects of natural selection because of its easily quantified phenotype, well–understood physiology, the large number of well–defined candidate loci that affect the trait, and the importance of an environmental variable, ultra–violet radiation (UVR), in influencing pigmentation phenotype. Her current research continues to focus on the role of natural selection and UVR in shaping recent patterns of pigmentation diversity. However, she is also beginning to explore genetic signals of adaptation associated with resistance to various infectious diseases (such as malaria) that have had an increasingly significant impact on human health over the past 5,000–10,000 years.

QARG Publications
Norton, H.L., Kittles, R.A., Parra, E., McKeigue, P., Mao, X., Cheng, K., Canfield, V.A., Bradley, D.G., McEvoy, B., Shriver, M.D. 2007. Genetic evidence for the convergent evolution of light skin in Europeans and East Asians. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 24, 710-722.

Norton, H.L., Koki, G., & Friedlaender, J.S. 2007. Pigmentation and candidate gene variation in Northern Island Melanesia. In J. Friedlaender (Eds.), Population Genetics, Linguistics, and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific: A Synthesis (pp. 96-112). Cambridge: Oxford University Press.

Norton, H.L., Friedlaender, J.S., Merriwether, D.A., Koki, G., Mgone, C.S., Shriver, M.D. 2006. Skin and hair pigmentation variation in Island Melanesia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 130, 254-268.