Deborah Bolnick

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies



Ph.D., 2005, University of California, Davis


Deborah Bolnick is an anthropological geneticist and critical biocultural anthropologist who explores how sociopolitical forces, historical events, and social inequalities shape human genomic diversity, as well as human biology more broadly. She analyzes DNA from ancient and contemporary peoples, in conjunction with other lines of evidence, to help reconstruct population histories in the Americas. She is especially interested in understanding the genetic and epigenetic impacts of settler colonialism, and works closely with Indigenous partners, archaeologists, and other scholars in this work. Deborah is also interested in the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomic research, and she studies the methods and applications of genetic ancestry testing, investigating how ancestry tests influence and are influenced by contemporary understandings of race, ethnicity, gender, and identity. Through her work, Deborah strives to help integrate more critical, intersectional, historically marginalized, and decolonial perspectives into science.

She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California at Davis, and is a past president of the American Association of Anthropological Genetics. She is also co-author (with John Relethford) of Reflections of Our Past: How Human History is Revealed in Our Genes (2018).

Research Interests

Anthropological genomics, ancient DNA, critical biocultural anthropology, race, human biological variation, genetic ancestry testing and identity, Native American population histories, population genetics, paleoepigenetics, ethical/legal/social implications of genetic research



  • Race and Human Biological Diversity
  • Anthropological Genetics


  • Race, Gender, and Science (graduate)
  • Ethical Currents in Anthropology and Archaeology (graduate)
  • Paleogenomics: Methods, Applications, and Controversies (graduate)


Institute for Systems Genomics

Selected Publications

Balentine CM, Alfonso-Durruty M, Reynolds AW, Vilar M, Morello F, San Román M, Springs LC, Smith RWA, Archer SM, Mata-Míguez J, Wing N, Bolnick DA. 2022. Evaluating population histories in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Chile, using ancient mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA. American Journal of Biological Anthropology 180:144-161.

Balentine CM, Bolnick DA. 2022. Parallel evolution in human populations: a biocultural perspective. Evolutionary Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21956

Cortez AD, Bolnick DA, Nicholas G, Bardill J, Colwell C. 2021. An ethical crisis in ancient DNA research: insights from the Chaco Canyon controversy as a case study. Journal of Social Archaeology. DOI: 10.1177/1469605321991600

Wagner JK, Colwell C, Claw KG, Stone AC, Bolnick DA, Hawks J, Brothers KB, Garrison NA. 2020. Fostering responsible research on ancient DNA. American Journal of Human Genetics 107:183-195.

Fuentes A, Ackermann RR, Athreya S, Bolnick D, Lasisi T, Lee S-H, McLean S-A, Nelson R. 2019. AAPA statement on race and racism. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 169:400-402.

Reynolds AW, Mata-Míguez J, Miró-Herrans A, Briggs-Cloud M, Sylestine A, Barajas-Olmos FM, García-Ortíz H, Rzhetskaya M, Orozco LS, Raff JA, Hayes MG, Bolnick DA. 2019. Comparing signals of natural selection between three Indigenous North American populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences USA 116:9312-9317.

Bolnick DA, Smith RWA, Fuentes A (eds). 2019. Vital topics forum: how academic diversity is transforming scientific knowledge in biological anthropology. American Anthropologist 121:464-496.

Bardill J, Bader AC, Garrison NA, Bolnick DA, Raff JA, Walker A, Malhi RS, SING Consortium. 2018. Advancing the ethics of paleogenomics. Science 360:384-385.

Relethford JH, Bolnick DA. 2018. Reflections of Our Past: How Human History is Revealed in Our Genes. Second edition. New York: Routledge Press.

Bolnick DA, Raff JA, Springs LC, Reynolds AW, Miró-Herrans AT. 2016. Native American genomics and population histories. Annual Review of Anthropology 45:319-340.


Robert W. Sussman Award for Scientific Contributions to Anthropology, Section H (Anthropology) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2020

Deborah Bolnick
Contact Information
Office LocationBeach Hall (BCH) 437
LinkAnthropological Genomics Lab