Heather Norton

Heather L Norton

Associate Professor

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

Braunstein Hall


A&S Anthropology - 0380

Professional Summary

Heather Norton is a molecular anthropologist whose research focuses on understanding the evolution of complex traits in humans. She approaches this work using phenotypic, genetic, and evolutionary perspectives, with an emphasis on the human pigmentation phenotype. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from The Pennsylvania State University and joined the Anthropology Department at the University of Cincinnati in 2010.

In her research Dr. Norton uses quantitative methods to characterize phenotypic variation in skin, hair, and iris pigmentation in diverse populations. She has worked to characterize genetic variants associated with this phenotypic variation and to place their frequency and distribution in the context of relevant population history. Dr. Norton is also interested in understanding the evolution of human skin pigmentation variation—specifically how the pigmentary phenotype has changed as humans expanded throughout African and into a diverse range of environments. Her work has contributed to a body of literature demonstrating that light skin color in humans has evolved through independent genetic mechanisms in different populations that have been targeted by strong natural selection.
More recently Dr. Norton has begun to explore other aspects of human skin variation, particularly those related to skin aging. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Health, National Institute of Justice, and Procter & Gamble. 
At UC Dr. Norton is the co-Director of the Women in Science and Engineering program (http://www.wise.uc.edu) and is the Faculty Director of UC’s Skin Science & Technology Collaborative (https://research.uc.edu/s2tc).


PhD: Pennsylvania State University 2005 (Anthropology)

MA: Pennsylvania State University 2002 (Anthropology)

Research Support

Grant: #2013-DN-BX-K011 Investigators:Norton, Heather 01-01-2014 -12-31-2016 National Institute of Justice Genomewide Association of quantitative pigmentary traits in admixed US populations Role:PI $663,636.00 Awarded Level:Federal

Grant: #Lubrizol Master Agreement Investigators:Norton, Heather 01-01-2020 -12-31-2025 The Lubrizol Corporation Lubrizol agreement Role:PI 0.00 Hold Level:Industry

Abbreviated Publications

Peer Reviewed Publications

Norton HL, Correa EA, Koki G, Friedlaender JS. 2014. Distribution of an allele associated with blond hair color across northern Island Melanesia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 153:653-662.

Miller, EE, Whitcome, KK, Lieberman, DE, Norton HL, Dyer, E. 2014. The effect of minimal shoes on arch structure and intrinsic foot muscle strength. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 3:74-85

Norton HL, Kittles RA, Parra E, McKeigue P, Mao X, Cheng K, Canfield VA, Bradley DG, McEvoy B, Shriver MD.  2007.  Genetic evidence for the convergent evolution of light skin in Europeans and East Asians.  Molecular Biology and Evolution 24:710-722.

Lamason RL, Mohideen MA, Mest JR, Wong AC, Norton HL, Aros MC, Jurynec MJ, Mao X, Humphreville VR, Humbert JE, Sinha S, Moore JL, Jagadeeswaran P, Zhao W, Ning G, Makalowska I, McKeigue PM, O'Donnell D, Kittles R, Parra EJ, Mangini NJ, Grunwald DJ, Shriver MD, Canfield VA, Cheng KC. 2005. SLC24A5, a putative cation exchanger, affects pigmentation in zebrafish and humans. Science 310:1782-1786.

Norton HL, Friedlaender JS, Merriwether DA, Koki G, Mgone CS, Shriver MD. 2006. Skin and hair pigmentation variation in Island Melanesia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 130:254-268.

Makova K, Norton HL.  2005.  Worldwide polymorphism at the MC1R locus and normal pigmentation variation in humans.  Peptides 26:1901-1908.

Bonilla C, Boxill LA, Donald SA, Williams T, Sylvester N, Parra EJ, Dios S, Norton HL, Shriver MD, Kittles RA. 2005. The 8818G allele of the agouti signaling protein (ASIP) gene is ancestral and is associated with darker skin color in African Americans. Human Genetics 116:402-406.

Shriver MD, Parra EJ, Dios S, Bonilla C, Norton H, Jovel C, Pfaff C, Jones C, Massac A, Cameron N, Baron A, Jackson T, Argyropoulos G, Jin L, Hoggart CJ, McKeigue PM, Kittles RA. 2003. Skin pigmentation, biogeographical ancestry and admixture mapping. Human Genetics 112:387-399

Wagner JK, Jovel C, Norton HL, Parra EJ, Shriver MD.  2002.  Comparing quantitative measures of erythema, pigmentation, and skin response using reflectometry.  Pigment Cell Research 15:379-384

Norton HL, Werren EA, Friedlaender JS. 2015. MC1R diversity in Northern Island Melanesia has not been constrained by strong purifying selection and cannot explain pigmentation phenotype variation in the region. BMC Genetics.

Norton HL, Edwards M, Krithika S, Johnson M, Werren EA, Parra E. 2015. Quantitative assessment of skin, hair, and iris variation in a diverse sample of individuals and associated genetic variation. American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Eaton K, Kavanaugh P, Edwards M, Krithika S, Norton HL, Parra EJ.  2015. Association study confirms the role of two OCA2 polymorphisms in normal skin pigmentation variation in East Asian populations. American Journal of Human Biology. 27:520-525.

Eaton K, Kavanaugh P, Edwards M, Krithika S, Norton HL, Parra EJ.  2015. Association study confirms the role of two OCA2 polymorphisms in normal skin pigmentation variation in East Asian populations. American Journal of Human Biology. 27:520-525.

Norton HL, Hanna M, Werren EA, Friedlaender JS. 2015. The rs387907171 SNP in TYRP1 is not associated with blond hair color on the island of Bougainville. The American Journal of Human Biology.

Murray N, Norton HL, Parra EJ. 2015. Distribution of two OCA2 polymorphisms associated with pigmentation in East Asian populations. Human Genome Variation. 

Vernot B, Tucci S, Kelso J, Schraiber J, Wolf A, Gittelman R, Dannemann M, Grote G, McCoy R, Norton HL, Scheinfeldt LB, Merriwether DA, Koki G, Friedlaender JS, Wakefield J, Pääbo S, Akey JM. 2016. Excavating Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from the genomes of Melanesian individuals. Science. 352:235-239.

Jonnalagadda M, Norton HL, Ozarkar S, Kulkarni S, and Ashma R. 2016. Association of genetic variants with pigmentation phenotype among populations of West Maharashtra. American Journal of Human Biology 28:610-618.

Rej PR, Deka R, Norton HL. 2017. How history and culture shaped tribal and caste mtDNA variation in Assam, Northeast India. American Journal of Human Biology

Jonnalagadda M, Bharti N, Patil Y, Ozarkar S, Manjari K, S, Joshi R, Norton HL. 2017. Identifying signatures of positive selection in pigmentation genes in two South Asian populations. American Journal of Human Biology.

Rawofi L, Edwards M, Krithika S, Le P, Cha D, Yang Z, Ma Y, Wang J, Su B, Jin L, Norton HL, Parra EJ. 2017. Genome-wide association study of pigmentary traits (skin and iris color) in individuals of East Asian ancestry. Peer J 5e2951.

Quillen E, Norton HL, Parra EJ, Lona-Durazo F, Ang K, Illiscu FM, Pearson L, Shriver M, Lasisi T, Gokcumen O, Starr I, Lin Y, Martin A, Jablonski N. 2019. The Complexity of a Complex Trait: Lessons from the genetics of skin color. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. 

Valle-Silva GD, Souza FDN, Marcorin L, Pereira ALE, Carratto TMT, Debortoili G, Olivera MLG, Fracasso NCA, Andrade ES, Donadi EA, Norton HL, Parra EJ, Simoes AL, Castelli EC, Mendes-Junior CT.  2019. Applicability of the SNPforID 52-plex panel for human identification and ancestry evaluation in a Brazilian population sample by next-generation sequencing. Forensic Science International Genetics. 40:201-209.

Jonnalagadda M, Ashad Faizan M, Ozarkar S, Ashma R, Kularni S, Norton HL, Parra EJ. 2019. A genome-wide association study of skin and iris pigmentation among individuals of South Asian ancestry. Genome Biology and Evolution. 11:1066-1076.

Lona-Durazo F, Hernandez-Pacheco N, Fan S, Zhang T, Choi J, Kovacs M, Loftus SK, Le Phuong, Edwards M, Fortes-Lima C, Eng C, Huntsman S, Hu D, Gómez-Cabezas EJ, Marín-Padrón LC, Grauholm J, Mors O, Burchard EG, Norton HL,  Pavan WJ, Brown KM, Tishkoff S, Pino-Yanes M, Beleza S, Marcheco-Teruel B, Parra EJ. 2019. Meta-analysis of GWA studies provides new insights on the genetic architecture of skin pigmentation in recently admixed populations. Submitted to BMC Genetics July 17. 

Norton HL, Quillen EE, Pearson LN, Bigham AW, Dunsworth H. 2019. Human races are not like dog breeds: Disentangling biology from a popular analogy. Evolution: Education and Outreach. 12:17. 

Book Chapter

Norton HL, Koki G, and Friedlaender JS.  2007. Pigmentation and candidate gene variation in Northern Island Melanesia. In J Friedlaender (ed.): Population Genetics, Linguistics, and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific: A Synthesis.  Cambridge: Oxford University Press pp 96-112.