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Lab Personnel and Student Members 


The ancient DNA lab at SFU is pleased to provide opportunities for new scholars (master’s and Ph.D. students or postdoctoral fellows) to work in the dedicated lab facilities to extract and analyze DNA from archaeological remains or museum collections to shape and enhance their research.


Dr. Yang, the lab director, serves as the senior supervisor, co-supervisor, or on a supervisory committee for most of his current lab members (see the list below). If you are interested in accessing the ancient DNA lab facilities at SFU, please contact Dr. Yang at donyang@sfu.ca for more information. 


Currently, Dr. Grace Hua Zhang serves as the lab manager. She coordinates the lab operations and lab personnel training and maintains the lab's well-being and functionality. Please contact Dr. Grace Zhang at zhangh@sfu.ca for more information. Besides ancient DNA studies, Dr. Zhang’s other research interests include human bioarchaeology, health, and diseases of human populations of the past.    



Current Graduate Students Working in the Lab


Luca Del Giacco, MA student   [more on the dept’s link here]   [Luca on SFU GPS Profile]

DNA Degradation Patterns in Bone Samples under Various Physical and Chemical Conditions


Ellery Procter, MA student     [more on the dept’s link here] 

Ancient DNA Analysis of Salmon Remains for The Study of Traditional Salmon Fishery Practices of Indigenous People in Northern British Columbia


Yuka Shichiza, Ph.D. student (with Dr. George Nicholas as the co-supervisor)  [more on the dept’s link here]  [Yuka on SFU GPS Profile]

Ancient DNA Analysis, Indigenous Archaeology, Archaeology of the Ainu in Hokkaido, Ichthyoarchaeology, Environmental Archaeology, and Historical Ecology


Christine Conlan, Ph.D. student (with Dr. Christina Giovas as the senior supervisor)   [more on the dept’s link here]  [Christine on SFU GPS Profile]

Applied Zooarchaeology, Species Conservation, Isotopic Analysis, Ancient DNA, Island Archaeology, and Human/Faunal Interactions  


Cathy Tran, PhD student  [more on the link here]  (with Dr. Hugo Cardoso as the senior supervisor and Dr. Yang as the co-supervisor)

Human Osteology, Ancient DNA, Forensic Anthropology, Humanitarian Forensics, Bioarchaeology


Luke Jackman, MA student     [more on the link here]  Genomic Study of Extinct Northern Curlew


Antonia Rodrigues, Ph.D. Student on Leave 

Ancient DNA-based Bioarchaeology of Human-Environmental Interactions of the Past  



Yang’s Training Philosophy


There are two research models in the academic world: natural sciences and arts (social sciences and humanities). Although the two share the same goals (i.e., to generate new knowledge and train the next generation of scholars), they differ considerably in their approaches to developing research ideas, conducting research work, generating and analyzing research data, publishing papers, and student training. The science-based model emphasizes teamwork and collaboration, while the arts-based model encourages more independent research at the individual level.

Yang’s research is involved with both research models, but in practice, at the early stages of graduate study, graduate students should use the science model to gain their lab experience and their overall research experience.    

Yang’s ancient DNA lab is focused on lab-based, community-engaged, and archaeology-oriented ancient DNA research. The research aims to address archaeological questions (specifically regarding human-environmental interactions of the past) using ancient DNA data.

The interdisciplinarity nature of ancient DNA research requires students to gain and develop the following unique research mentality and skills to succeed.     

In the lab, students are expected to work like a molecular biologist:

1.     Be patient, meticulous, and mindful when conducting bench work in the lab and be a good team player by helping and supporting research of the other team members;

2.     Be reflective, positive, and creative when troubleshooting issues and self-critical when authenticating ancient DNA data you have generated in the lab;

3.     Be aware of the potential occurrence of human errors and contaminations in the lab – ready to accept “mistakes.”

Outside the Lab, students are expected to think like a field anthropologist:

1.     Be respectful of the peoples and societies you are learning from and are working with;

2.     be open-minded when integrating other lines of evidence, particularly traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples; and be mindful of the complexity of research questions related to human cultures and societies;

3.     Be aware of the potential risks of using DNA analysis to oversimplify research questions avoiding overuse of ancient DNA data.

Ideally, new students should have had undergraduate training in both archaeology/anthropology and biology/genetics, but those who only have either archaeology/anthropology or biology/genetics can do very well in ancient DNA-based thesis research if they are willing to make extra efforts to catch up to those missed components through developing an individualized training plan with their supervisor.

Essentially, it is that unique mentality and skills in and outside the lab that would eventually determine if you would be successful in the field. You can develop those skills even if you don’t have double-major training. However, you cannot automatically expect to possess those skills even if you have such double-major training. You are the one who knows you the best; you should take a pause to reflect deeply on your potential before jumping into ancient DNA research.

Graduate study used to be considered the first step toward an academic career, but this is only true sometimes, as many other more appealing career paths are waiting for you to explore. Feel free to discuss them with your senior supervisor and devise a plan (the earlier, the better) to fulfill your research degree requirement by SFU and enhance your professional skills training throughout the rest of your graduate study. This will assist your future non-academic careers. Often, what you have learnt from your graduate study would benefit your non-academic career dearly. 



Recently Completed Postdoc    


Arianne Boileau, Ph.D. (University of Florida), FRQ Postdoctoral Fellow (2021-2023) under Dr. Dongya Yang

Archaeology of the Maya Subarea, Mesoamerica, Human-environment Interactions, Zooarchaeological Method and Theory, Ancient DNA Analysis of Turtle Remains, Taphonomy, Isotope Analysis, and Environmental Archaeology. 

Dr.  Arianne Boileau currently is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology [link], Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada


Thomas Royle, Ph.D. (SFU), Postdoctoral Fellow 2021-2023 under Dr. Jonathan Driver  [Tom on SFU GPS Awardee Profile]

Archaeology of the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes, Archaeological Science, Ancient DNA, DNA Barcoding, Environmental Archaeology, Historical Ecology, Ichthyoarchaeology, Palaeoecology, Zooarchaeology.    

Dr. Royle is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow [link] at the Department of Archaeology and Cultural History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.



Completed Graduate Students   


Naifan Zhang, PhD. 2022-2023 Visiting Ph.D. student from JLU, China (with Dr. Dawei Cai as the senior supervisor)  

Ancient Genomic Studies of Archaeological Bovid Remains from Northeast China, Chinese Archaeology 


Lauren Clark, MA (2022)   [Lauren on SFU GPS Profile]

Thesis: Ancient DNA analysis of archaeological cervid remains from Bridge River.


Thomas Royle, Ph.D. (2021)

Thesis: Ancient DNA Analysis of Archaeological Fish Remains: Methods and Applications


Sophie Rabinow, M.A.(2020) (with Dr. Christina Giovas as the senior supervisor) 

Thesis: Reconstructing Ceramic Age Interactions between South America and Carriacou (Lesser Antilles) with a Novel Commensal Proxy: Translocated Agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) Mitochondrial aDNA 


Kelly Brown, M.A. (2016)

Thesis: Developing Minimally Impactful Protocols for DNA Analysis of Museum Collection Bone Artifacts


Hua Grace Zhang, Ph.D. (2016)

Thesis: Human Osteoarchaeological Research on Stress and Lifeways of Bronze Age Populations in North China


Melissa Roth, M.A. (2015)

Thesis: Using Ancient mtDNA to Track Temporal Genetic Changes of Pacific Herring Populations in the Central Coast of British Columbia


Evan Hardy, M.A.(2015)

Thesis: The Bioarchaeological Examination of the Skeletal Remains of Warring States Period Tuchengzi, Inner Mongolia


Cara Halseth, M.A.(2015)

Thesis: Reconstructing Northern Fur Seal Population Diversity through Ancient and Modern DNA Data


Thomas Royle, M.A. (2014)

Thesis: there's More than One Fish in the Sea: Investigating the Composition of Middle and Late Period Fisheries at EeRb-144, British Columbia, Canada through Ancient DNA Analysis


Kasia Zimmerman, M.A. (2014)

Thesis: Changing Ways, Constant Companions: The Ancient DNA and Local Knowledge of Tla'amin Dogs


Antonia Rodrigues (MA 2012)

Thesis: Experimental Investigation into the Preservation and Recovery of Degraded DNA from Sediments


Ursula Arndt (Ph.D. 2011)

Thesis: Ancient DNA Analysis of Northeast Pacific Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)


Jason Moore  (MA 2011)

Thesis: Comparative Study of Ancient DNA Extraction Methods for Archaeological Plant Remains


Krista McGrath (MA 2010)

Thesis: The Effects of High Temperature on the Quantity and Quality of Mitochondrial and Nuclear DNA in Non-Human Skeletal Remains


Camilla Speller (Ph.D. 2009)

Thesis: Investigating Turkey Domestication in the Southwest United States through Ancient DNA Analysis


Kathy Watt (MA 2005)  

Thesis:  Decontamination Techniques in Ancient DNA Analysis


Camilla Speller (MA 2005)

Thesis: One Fish, Two Fish, Old Fish, New Fish: Investigating Differential Distribution of Salmon Resources in the Pacific Northwest through Ancient DNA Analysis


Alice Storey (MA 2004)  

Thesis:  The Effects of SAVE ME A DRUMSTICK: Molecular Taphonomy, Differential Preservation and Ancient DNA from the Kingdom of Tonga   



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