Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Webinar: How Humans Thrive in Extreme Environments

Archived Webinar

This Zoom webinar with anthropological geneticist Christina Balentine aired January 21, 2021, as part of the Human Origins Today series. Watch a recording in the player above.


When you think of superheroes, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and the X-Men might come to mind. But do you ever think of yourself? Thanks to cultural innovations and genetic adaptation by natural selection, we humans rise to our own super abilities to thrive in seemingly intolerable environments all over the world: at extremely high altitudes in the Himalayas; in freezing cold in the Arctic; and in toxic, arsenic-rich regions in the Andes Mountains, to name just a few. Christina Balentine, an anthropological geneticist and Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, shares her research on the topic to help you learn about our own superhuman abilities.

Acknowledgement: In this presentation, Christina discusses genomic research with Indigenous people from what is now Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Chile. She and her team thank and acknowledge the people belonging to the following Native Groups: the Yámana (Yaghan), the Káwesqar (Alacalufe), the Selk’nam (Ona), and the Aonikenk (Southern Tehueleche). They also thank the Centro de Estudios del Hombre Austral, Insituto de la Patagonia, Universidad de Magallanes; the Museo Martín Gusinde, Puerto Williams; and the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales de Chile for granting them permission to analyze the ancient skeletal remains discussed in this presentation.

Moderator: Briana Pobiner, paleoanthropologist and educator at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Related Resources

Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Anthropology and Social Studies
David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins