I chose to explore the American Association of Anthropological Genetics’s website for my research. Founded 22 years ago, the AAAG is an educational and scientific organization with three main goals. These goals are to promote the broad study of anthropological genetics, to facilitate communication with those interested in the field of anthropological genetics, and to foster cooperation among anthropological geneticists.
We have already learned that anthropology is broken down into four subfields, and anthropological genetics is a part of the subset that deals with physical or biological anthropology. If you search their website a little bit, you can find the type of events that this organization hosts. For example, in 2014 they held a “Application of Genetics to Anthropological Research Workshop.” The purpose of the workshop was to provide advanced students and scholars experience in the development and assessment of primate genomic projects, so that they may be able to further their own interests and have the skills to create their own genomic project. This was the 3rd year in a row that they had held the event. This is exciting to me because one of the main concepts of physical anthropology, from my understanding, is that each person is a product of an evolutionary history, that is including all biological changes that have brought humans to our current form. Now, of course, there is no more precise way for us to be able to study these changes then to study DNA through these genomic projects so the advancement of this kind of knowledge seems very valuable to the scientific community. If physical anthropologists are really trying to answer the question, “What does it mean to be human?” they wouldn’t be able to give a more exact answer then to present a full understanding of our DNA.
They also had a link on their website titled “Human Biology” and it turns out it leads you to a page with a description of the AAAG’s textbook. This both makes fiscal sense and is very much in line with what they had decreed as a main function of the organization: to promote the broad study of anthropological genetics. For any field of science it seems it would make the most long term sense to attempt to inspire as much enthusiasm as possible into young people about your specific field. The AAAG is doing a good job of this both by having a textbook and by having some of their events geared towards educating a younger, less experienced crowd as we had seen with the work shop in 2014.
They also organize events for the more experienced class of genetic anthropologists, like a meeting that is being held this year on the genetics of admixed populations. After some research I have found out that admixture is a type of gene mapping that uses a population of mixed ancestry to find the genetic loci that contributes to differences in diseases! This gets back to the concept that each person is a product of an evolutionary history and we are finding more ways to study this very close up. I must say, when I first read about admixture it seemed obscure and very boring but now that I sort of understand what it is I can definitely see the relevance in studying genetic anthropology.