Category Archives: Life at ACAD

LabARTory – the art of science architecture

By Andrew Farrer

I didn’t make a mistake; I intentionally used Bing. I learnt two interesting things from this: Firstly, it’s amazing how a different search engine introduces you to a very different range of information. Secondly, a lot more thought went into the artistic design of the ACAD ancient DNA lab than I had ever suspected. Continue reading


OAGR: a brand new genome database

By Jimmy Breen and Andrew Farrer

Here at ACAD, the incredible range of rare, ancient samples we get to work with always excites us. The DNA data we are able to recover from these samples, alongside their crucial contextual information, reveals amazing insights into our history. We also realise that sharing data allows all researchers to ask bigger, broader, more detailed questions, and gives us the ability to answer them in more depth. Continue reading

Ancient DNA adds a piece to the PIE

By Wolfgang Haak

It’s no secret that the history of mankind has a fascination for me. As a boy, I used to make bows and arrows, spears and stone tools, hung out in the large woods behind our house in the German countryside, and read books about Stone Age mammoth hunters of Europe (I won’t mention the loincloth I made of rabbit skins). Now, I work in the field of ancient DNA, in the lucky position to apply my personal passion for the human past through the combined research interests of genetics and archaeology.

This is hard work on a day-to-day basis. Our rewards include publications, when we can share our hard work with others, as was the case this week. This study is the culmination Continue reading

A “gold mine” within a gold mine

by Tim Rabanus-Wallace and Julien Soubrier

Recently, we had the opportunity to collect frozen bone remains directly from the permafrost in Canada, as part of our research on the evolution of flora and megafauna throughout the climate variations of the late Pleistocene (~10 to 100 thousand years ago). The two of us, along with ACAD director, Alan Cooper, travelled to the gold rush city of Dawson in the Yukon, where a few families are still mining for gold in the frozen soil. To reach the gold-rich layers, miners are using high-pressure water to accelerate the natural thawing of the permafrost, uncovering numerous fossil bones (our gold mine!) in the process. Most of these bones are from large mammals who were grazing in the steppes of the Berigian region a few millennia ago: mammoths, horses, and bison; though the burrows of ancient squirrels also survive, with fascinating plant material inside. Continue reading

2014 Australian Laureate Recipient

ACAD director, Alan Cooper, has received an ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship. This prestigious award, supported by the Australian Government, will provide funding to explore how modern humans reached their current distribution and health. The research will include human genome and human microbiome work covering multiple human groups, including the Aboriginal Australians.

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Click here for the ARC website

Descending into Natural Trap Cave – A Scientist’s Day in the Office

By Alan Cooper and Laura Weyrich

Caving (rappelling), fossil finds, bone grinding, DNA sampling and fieldwork all in a day’s work.  Here Alan Cooper descends into the Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming to collect unique animal fossils for sampling, to be subsequently analysed at ACAD.

What happens at Camp, stays at Camp… or does it?

by Tim Rabanus-Wallace

Tim presents a snapshot of life on the Dawson Field Camp during the July 2014 Yukon field expedition, introduces you to the crew, and talks about some of the considerations that go into ancient DNA fieldwork.