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Brian Kemp

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Brian M. Kemp

Associate Professor
Ph.D. University of California-Davis, 2006

Office: Dale Hall Tower 510C
Research Campus: Stephenson Research and Technology Center 2090

Research Interests

  • Molecular Anthropology
  • Ancient DNA
  • Forensic DNA
  • North American Prehistory and History
  • Domestication
  • Molecular Species Identification (DNA Barcoding)
  • Advancing Methods for the Study of Aged, Low Copy Number, and Degraded DNA Samples


Much of my research is directed towards advancing methods for the study of DNA from ancient and degraded sources.  It is challenging to work with such material, especially because the reliability of genetic evidence obtained from ancient and highly degraded sources is compromised by exogenous contamination and the extent of post-mortem chemical damage that has accrued in the endogenous DNA.  These problems, combined with the effects of co-extracted chemical impurities [called polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) inhibitors], make the analysis of some ancient specimens difficult, if not impossible.  They are, however, not unique to the ancient DNA field—DNA recovered from forensic material is similarly compromised.  
Other areas of my research include using “DNA barcoding” to determine the species of various faunal remains from the archaeological record and using genetic data to investigate prehistoric human behaviors (e.g., by examination of the process of turkey domestication in the American Southwest or that of prehistoric fishing practices of those from the Northwest).

Recent/Significant Publications

2020    Halffman CM, Potter BA, McKinney HJ, Tsutaya T, Finney BP, Kemp BM, Bartelink EJ, Wooller MJ, Buckley M, Clark CT, Johnson JJ, Bingham BL, Lanoë FB, Sattler RA, and Reuther JD.  “Ancient Beringian paleodiets revealed through multiproxy stable isotope analyses.” Science Advances 6:eabc1968.
2020    Kemp BM, Bingham B, Frome R, Labonte M, Palmer E, Parsons ES, Gobalet KW, and Rosenthal J.  “Subduing the influence of PCR inhibitors on amplifying aged, degraded, and low copy number DNA: PCR enhancer cocktail-p and rescue PCR.” PLos One 15:e0234745.
2020    Barton L, Bingham B, Sankaranarayanan K, Monroe C, Thomas A, and Kemp BM.  “The earliest farmers of northwest China exploited grain-fed pheasants not chickens.” Scientific Reports 10: 2556.
2019    De los Santos R, Monroe C, Worl R, Worl R, Schroeder KB, and Kemp BM.  “Genetic Diversity and Relationships of Tlingit Moieties.” Human Biology 91(2): 95-116.
2018    Palmer E, Tushingham S, and Kemp BM.  “Human use of small forage fish: Improved ancient DNA species identification techniques reveal long term record of sustainable mass harvesting of smelt fishery in the northeast Pacific Rim.”  Journal of Archaeological Science 99:143-152.
2018    Conrad C, Barceló LP, Seminoff JA, Tomaszewicz CT, Labonte M, Kemp BM, Jones EL, Stoyka M, Bruner‖ K, and Pastron A.  “Ancient DNA Analysis and Stable Isotope Ecology of Sea Turtles (Cheloniidae) from the Gold Rush-era (1850s) Eastern Pacific Ocean.” Open Quaternary 4:1-13.
2018     Johnson BM, Kemp BM, and Thorgaard GH.  “Increased mitochondrial DNA diversity in ancient Columbia River basin Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha.” PLoS One 13:e0190059.
2017    Kemp BM, Judd K, Monroe C, Eerkens JW, Hilldorfer L, Cordray C, Schad R, Reams E, Ortman SG, and Kohler TA.  “Prehistoric mitochondrial DNA of domesticate animals supports a 13th century exodus from the northern US southwest.” PLoS One 12:e0178882.
2017    Lindo J, Achilli A, Perego U, Archer D, Valdiosera C, Petzelt B, Mitchell J, Worl R, Dixon EJ, Fifield T, Rasmussen M, Willerslev E, Cybulski J, Kemp BM, DeGiorgio M, and Malhi RS.  “Ancient individuals from the North American Northwest Coast reveal 10,000 years of regional genetic continuity.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 114 (16): 4093-4098.
2017    Johnson B, and Kemp BM.  “Rescue PCR: Reagent-rich PCR recipe improves amplification of degraded DNA extracts.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 11: 683-694.

Courses Taught

  • ANTH 3203: Introduction to Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 4953: Advanced Topics in Human Evolution
  • ANTH 4953: Evolution & Society (Presidential Dream Course)

Curriculum Vitae