Cultural traits, behaviors that are learned from others, can change more rapidly than genes and can be inherited not only from parents but also from teachers and peers.

How does this complex process of cultural evolution differ from and interact with genetic evolution? 

My research builds on knowledge about learned behaviors from linguistics, animal behavior, and anthropology by integrating techniques and data from population genetics. By combining empirical and theoretical approaches to the study of genetics and learned behaviors, my research program targets three fundamental questions:

(1) In what ways can learned behaviors change the course of genetic evolution?

(2) How much information about evolutionary history persists in learned behaviors?

(3) How do ecological factors, such as environmental and species interactions, affect the evolution of learned behaviors?

I address these questions by integrating the study of human linguistic and genetic variation, the evolution of learned birdsong in a genetic context, and theoretical and computational models of genetic and cultural evolution.


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About me

I am an Assistant Professor in the Biological Sciences department at Vanderbilt University. Contact me for more information about joining my lab as a student or postdoc!

Previously, I was a postdoctoral fellow in Marc Feldman's lab in the Stanford University Department of Biology. I received my bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, working with Christine Queitsch, and my PhD from the Rockefeller University, working with Fernando Nottebohm and Joel E. Cohen.

My research merges computational and theoretical approaches to the comparison of cultural and genetic evolution in multiple systems, particularly human language and birdsong.



Creanza N, Fogarty L, Feldman MW (2016). Cultural niche construction of repertoire size and learning strategies in songbirdsEvolutionary Ecology: 30:285–305.

Kolodny O*, Creanza N*, Feldman MW (2015). Evolution in leaps: the punctuated accumulation and loss of cultural innovations. *Contributed equally. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 10.1073/pnas.1520492112.

Online press: The Conversation, Stanford Report

Fogarty L, Creanza N, Feldman MW (2015). Cultural evolutionary perspectives on creativity and human innovationTrends in Ecology and Evolution: 10.1016/j.tree.2015.10.004.

Creanza N, Ruhlen M, Pemberton TJ, Rosenberg NA, Feldman MW, Ramachandran S (2015). A comparison of worldwide phonemic and genetic variation in human populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:1265–1272.

Online press: The Atlantic,, Serious Science, Ars Technica,, Generation Anthropocene podcast, Stanford Report, Bioscholar, The Molecular Ecologist, Brown University News
Academic press: Hunley K (2015). Reassessment of global gene–language coevolution. PNAS 112(7), 1919–1920.
Research Highlight, Nature Reviews Genetics (2015) 16:128–129.
In this Issue” (2015) PNAS 112(5):1239–1240.

Creanza N, Nottebohm F (2015). Signals of evolutionary history in a learned behavior: song reflects phylogeny in sparrows. Submitted

Creanza N, Feldman MW (2014). Complexity in models of cultural niche construction with selection and homophily. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111:10830–10837.

Creanza N, Fogarty L, Feldman MW (2013). Exploring Cultural Niche Construction from the Paleolithic to Modern Hunter-Gatherers. In Dynamics of Learning in Neanderthals and Modern Humans Volume 1 (pp. 211–228). Springer Japan.

Fogarty L, Creanza N, Feldman MW (2013). The role of cultural transmission in human demographic change: an age-structured model. Theoretical Population Biology 88: 68–77.

Press M, Li H, Creanza N, Kramer G, Queitsch C, Sourjik V, Borenstein E (2013). Genome-scale co-evolutionary inference identifies functions and clients of bacterial Hsp90. PLoS Genetics 9: e1003631.

Creanza N*, Fogarty L*, Feldman, MW (2012). Models of niche construction with selection and assortative mating. *Contributed equally. PLoS ONE 7: e42722.

Creanza N*, Schwarz JS*, Cohen JE (2010). Intraseasonal dynamics and dominant sequences in H3N2 influenza. *Contributed equally. PLoS ONE 5: e8544.




I have developed software to enable pairwise comparisons of bird songs, both in audio characteristics (frequency, duration, etc) as well as syntax (motif and syllable structure).

The paper will be on the bioRxiv soon, but until then contact me if you're interested in using the software.

Current funding

Research grant

Research grant

Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics Individual research grant

Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics

Individual research grant

Individual fellowship

Individual fellowship

Past Funding

Graduate research fellowship

Graduate research fellowship

Graduate fellowship

Graduate fellowship