Biological anthropology fieldwork at the University of Papua New Guinea: studies on stress, diet, and genetic diversity

The early 2023 Papuan Past Project fieldwork in Papua New Guinea took place from the 27th January to the 14th of February. While part of the team conducted archaeological surveys along the Purari River (Gulf Province), Nicolas Brucato, Christopher Kinipi, and Sébastien Plutniak pursued biological anthropology research at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), and were based at the archaeological lab). They followed three lines of investigations: stress, diet habits and genetic diversity in Papua New Guinea.

A study on stress in PNG

Christopher Kinipi launched his project on the impact of stress on health in PNG, as part of his master’s thesis co-supervised by UPNG and the University of Toulouse (France). During the course of his work at the clinic of UPNG, he was struck by the fact that stress is a major health issue for patients, which should deserve more study. Within the Papuan Past Project, a study was designed to measure the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, during the daily life of PNG individuals living in different environments. The study combines three levels of analysis: biological, personal self-assessment of well-being, and personal social support.

This project was presented at UPNG to invite participants from the 6th to the 8th of February 2023. Early morning and late evening cortisol sampling were necessary to fully describe its evolution during the days, and phenotypic data was collected (e.g., blood pressure). Questionnaires were filled to asses self-perceived health status and supporting social network. The collected data will be compared with other places in PNG and the analyses will form the basis of Christopher Kinipi’s master’s thesis.

Chris Kinipi processing samples.

Investigating dietary habits in PNG

Following our recent work on genetic adaptations in PNG, a new study has been launched on the link between genetics and diet. Genes involved in the digestion of food nutrients showed signs of specific adaptations of PNG population. We presented this study to UPNG students in several conferences from the 30th January to the 2nd February 2023 and invited participants. Questionnaires on dietary habit were filled by participants, phenotypic data (e.g. body-mass index) was measured, and saliva samples were collected for genetic analyses.

Both for the study on stress and on diet, UPNG students responded positively: due to the invaluable support of student leaders and professors, more than 50 students collaborated in this scientific program. This was a fairly extensive data collection, so we thank all the participants for their patience and their kindness throughout this process. We are looking forward to analysing the collected data and presenting our results to PNG audience.

Extending New Guinea genetic diversity study to West Papua

There are several West Papuan communities in Port Moresby. Thanks to the support of the elders in the communities, Nicolas Brucato, Sébastien Plutniak and Christopher Kinipi visited two communities and presented the goals and results of our project. Presentations and discussions with community members led to the organisation of two sampling sessions: 2nd and 4th of February 2023. Genetic data will be analysed and compared with those already obtained by the Papuan Past Project.

Public outreach

Conferences at UPNG

A series of conferences were held at UPNG from the 30th January to the 2nd February 2023 by Papuan Past Project members Nicolas Brucato, Sébastien Plutniak and Christopher Kinipi. The objective of these conferences was to present to the UPNG professors, staff and students –and also members of the French Embassy to PNG– a detailed overview of the main results obtained since 2016 focusing on the genetic history of Papua New Guinea. It was an occasion to exchange about the obtained results and future prospects with the audience.

N. Brucato speaking at UPNG.

Radio broadcast

Finally, Nicolas Brucato and Sébastien Plutniak were interviewed by PNG-FM, one of the PNG national radio broadcast; they discussed the PPP project. We thank the journalist who offered us this opportunity to reach a wider local audience.

Visiting a traditional craft fair at the National Museum and Art Gallery.

Cite this blog post
editorsppp (2023, February 13). Biological anthropology fieldwork at the University of Papua New Guinea: studies on stress, diet, and genetic diversity. Papuan Past Project. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from

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