Natasha Arora

Research Interests

I’m intrigued by the diversity of life forms and how this diversity has been shaped by evolutionary forces. Currently I am exploring patterns of genomic diversity in humans and our pathogens. In 2012 I became fascinated by the mysteries surrounding the little cork-screw-shaped bacterium that causes syphilis. This sexually transmitted disease on the rise is riddled by questions on its origin and spread. While I continue to investigate syphilis strains around the globe using genomic tools, I have more recently started applying these to examine the diversity in human populations. This new project is being carried out at the Zurich Institute of Forensic Medicine. Another area that I’m especially passionate about is the evolutionary study of great apes, as this helps us tackle questions on who we are, and what makes us humans. I was able to merge some of my interests for my doctoral degree, which focused on the effects of the environment and dispersal on the population genetic structure of orang-utans.

While I’m pretty much always pondering on these exciting evolutionary questions, I also enjoy hiking in the Swiss Alps, doing yoga and cooking with the wisdom of Ayurveda, swimming in warm oceans and travelling to Southeast Asia.


Education and Professional Positions

2014 - present Research Associate, Zurich Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2012 - 2014 Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland, funded by the Forschungskredit
2011 - 2012 Research Assistant, Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2006 - 2011 Ph.D. Anthropological Genetics (Natural Sciences), Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2002 - 2003 M.Sc. Human Evolution and Behaviour (Biological Anthropology) UCL, University of London, UK
1998 - 2002 B.Sc. Genetics, Queen Mary, University of London, UK and Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus, Spain

Selected Publications

  • Greminger MP., Stölting KN., Nater A., Goossens B., Arora N., Bruggmann R., Patrignani A., Nussberger B., Sharma R., Kraus RHS., Ambu Laurentius N., Singleton I., Chikhi L., van Schaik CP., Krützen M. (2014) Generation of SNP datasets for orangutan population genomics using improved reduced-representation sequencing and direct comparisons of SNP calling algorithms. BMC Genomics, 15:16. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-16
  • Dunkel LP., Arora N., van Noordwijk MA., Atmoko SSU., Putra AP., Krützen M., van Schaik CP. (2013) Variation in developmental arrest among male orangutans: a comparison between a Sumatran and a Bornean population. Frontiers in Zoology, 10:12. DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-10-12
  • Sharma R., Arora N., Goossens B., Nater A., Morf N., Salmona J., Bruford MW., Van Schaik CP., Krützen M., Chikhi L. (2012) Effective population size dynamics and the demographic collapse of Bornean orang-utans. PLoS ONE, 7(11):e49429. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049429
  • Arora N., Van Noordwijk MA., Ackermann C., Willems EP., Nater A., Greminger M., Nietlisbach P., Dunkel LP., Utami Atmoko SS., Pamungkas J., Perwitasari-Farajallah D., Van Schaik CP., Krützen M. (2012) Parentage-based pedigree reconstruction reveals female matrilineal clusters and male-biased dispersal in nongregarious Asian great apes, the Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus). Molecular Ecology, 21(13):3352-3362. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05608.x
  • Nater A., Arora N., Greminger M., van Schaik CP., Singleton I., Wich S., Fredriksson G., Perwitasari-Farajallah D., Pamungkas J., Krützen M. (2012) Marked population structure and recent migration in the critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan (Pongo abelii). J Hered (2013) 104 (1): 2-13. DOI: 10.1093/jhered/ess065
  • Wich SA., Krützen M., Lameira AR., Arora N., Nater A., Bastian ML., Meulman E., Morrogh-Bernard HC., Utami Atmoko SS., Pamungkas J., Perwitasari-Farajalla D., Hardus ME., van Noordwijk M., van Schaik CP. (2012) Call cultures in orang-utans? PLoS ONE 7(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036180
  • Nietlisbach P., Arora N., Nater A., Goossens B., Van Schaik CP., Krützen M. (2012) Heavily male-biased long-distance dispersal of orang-utans (genus:Pongo), as revealed by Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial genetic markers. Molecular Ecology, 21(13):3173-3186. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05539.x
  • van Noordwijk MA., Arora N., Willems EP., Dunkel LP., Amda RN., Mardianah N., Ackermann C., Krützen M., van Schaik CP. (2012) Female philopatry and its social benefits among Bornean orangutans. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66(6):823-834. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-012-1330-7
  • Nater A., Nietlisbach P., Arora N., van Schaik CP., van Noordwijk MA., Willems EP., Singleton I., Wich SA., Goossens B., Warren KS., Verschoor EJ., Perwitasari-Farajallah D., Pamungkas J., Krützen M. (2011) Sex-biased dispersal and volcanic activities shaped phylogeographic patterns of extant orangutans (genus: Pongo). Molecular Biology and Evolution, 28(8):2275-2288. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msr042
  • Arora N., Nater A., van Schaik CP., Willems EP., van Noordwijk MA., Morf N., Krützen M., et al (2010) Effects of Pleistocene glaciations and rivers on the population structure of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 107(50):21376-21381. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1010169107
  • Arora N. (2010) Book review: Negotiating risk: British Pakistani experiences of genetics, by Alison Shaw. Oxford, U.K. Human Biology; An International Record of Research, 82(1):115-118. DOI: 10.3378/027.082.0108
  • Nietlisbach P., Nater A., Greminger MP., Arora N., Krützen M. (2010) A multiplex-system to target 16 male-specific and 15 autosomal genetic markers for orang-utans (genus: Pongo). Conservation Genetics Resources, 2(S1):153-158.. DOI: 10.1007/s12686-010-9278-2