Dongya Yang



  • BSc (Lanzhou University)
  • MSc (Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • PhD (McMaster University)

Research Interests

Current research interests of the SFU ancient DNA laboratory include ancient DNA technique and ancient DNA studies in physical anthropology and environmental bio-archaeology. Through the analysis of ancient DNA extracted from human, animal and plant remains, we focus our research not only on human skeletal populations but also on human interactions with other animal and plant species in the past.

Ancient DNA

The research includes the development of improved methods and protocols for ancient DNA extraction, PCR amplification, decontamination of ancient samples, contamination controls and detection. Ancient faunal DNA is often used to facilitate such research since it is less vulnerable to contamination by modern human DNA.

Previous and on-going projects in this area include the effective removal of PCR inhibitors from ancient DNA samples, the use of silica-spin columns for ancient DNA extraction, hypersensitive PCR and contamination in the amplification of ancient human mtDNA.

Physical Anthropology

Research in this area includes the genetic study of ancient human skeletal populations, molecular forensic anthropology (sex identification), kinship reconstruction, individual identification of skeletal remains), molecular palaeopathology of genetic diseases and infectious diseases.

Previous and on-going projects in this area include the mtDNA study of an ancient Italian population, the development of new PCR-based method to avoid false sex identification, DNA identification of archaeological human remains, DNA diagnosis of Thalassemia from ancient bones and DNA diagnosis of syphilis from ancient bones.

Environmental Bioarchaeology

Instead of directly studying human remains, this part of the research focuses on the analysis of ancient animal and plant DNA for a better understanding of human interactions with these species. We intend to work closely with our archaeology colleagues to deconstruct archaeological issues to develop testable ancient DNA questions.

Previous and on-going projects in this area involve DNA analysis of archaeological salmon, chicken, whale, rabbit, sheep, goat and buffalo bones, and African pearl millets.


Fall 2024

This instructor is currently not teaching any courses.