Maria A Nieves Colon

Photo of Maria A Nieves Colon

Contact Me

395 Humphrey Center
Department of
301 19th Ave S


I am an anthropological geneticist who uses both ancient DNA and modern genomics tools to examine human population history in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Anthropology, Arizona State University, Phoeniz, AZ, 2017.
  • M.A.: Anthropology, Arizona State University, Phoeniz, AZ, 2012.
  • B.A.: Anthropology & History of the Americas, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, PR, 2009.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Ancient DNA
  • Anthropological genetics
  • Migration and admixture
  • Human population history
Courses Taught
  • ANTH3980/5980 Topics in Anthropology: History of Human Health & Disease
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Senior Scientist: Astrea Forensics / Claret Bioscience LLC , 2019 - 2020
  • Affiliated Researcher: Arizona State University , 2019 - 2020
  • National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow: Joint affiliation with National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO-CINVESTAV), Irapuato, MX , 2017 - 2019


  • Population history of present-day Caribbean islanders: My research integrates genomics and anthropological perspectives to elucidate the population history of present-day Caribbean communities. Specifically, I am interested in examining how post-colonial processes of migration and admixture shaped the ancestry, culture and health of historically underrepresented or marginalized island groups. Currently I am combining high-resolution genome wide array data and ethnohistorical sources to investigate ancestry and identity among Afro-Caribbean communities in the Lesser Antilles. This research is in collaboration with Jada Benn-Torres (Vanderbilt University) and Andres Moreno-Estrada (LANGEBIO-CINVESTAV).
  • Ancient DNA and the pre-colonial Caribbean: I am interested in characterizing the genetic diversity of ancient human communities from the Caribbean islands. My dissertation research examined pre-colonial migrations to the island of Puerto Rico, and elucidated the genetic links between ancient Indigenous communities and present-day islanders. My ancient DNA work re-evaluates existing models for the peopling of the Caribbean, explores the role of DNA in the maintenance of ancient inter-island interaction networks and broadens understanding of the biocultural relationship between present-day Puerto Ricans and ancient Indigenous populations. For this work I collaborate with William J. Pestle (University of Miami).


  • STEM Guest Speaker program, John F Kennedy High School: 2020
  • El uso del ADN antiguo en el estudio de la historia humana: Video short for National Museum of Anthropology and History, Mexico City ( En español, 2019
  • Ancient DNA Reconstructs the Genetic Legacies of Precontact Puerto Rico Communities: Nieves Colon, Maria, Pestle WJ, Reynolds AW, Llamas B, de la Fuente C, Fowler, K, Skerry K, Crespo-Torres E, Bustamante CD, Stone AC, Molecular Biology & Evolution, 37 611–626, 2020. Link
  • Ancient DNA and Caribbean Archaeology: Nieves Colon, Maria, Society for American Archaeology, The SAA Archaeological Record, 19 26-31, 2019. Link
  • Comparison of two ancient DNA extraction protocols for skeletal remains from tropical environments.: Nieves Colon, Maria, Ozga AT, Pestle WJ, Cucina A, Tiesler V, Stanton T, Stone AC., American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 16 824-836, 2018. Link
  • National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2017 - 2019
  • National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, 2016 - 2018
  • Rust Family Foundation Grant for Archaeological Research, 2016 - 2017