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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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), we had the opportunity to collect frozen bone remains directly from the permafrost in Canada. Three of us traveled 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 bone remains 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, bison…
Above: Placer mining. Recycled water is pumped into the mine face at high pressure, melting the ice and revealing the gold-bearing gravels. After a claim is worked in the way, miners reform the land using excavators, allowing local plants to recolonise, and the environment to rapidly recover.
Alan Cooper answers your questions while in the stunning Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming. Find out how the team uncover, protect, and transport samples to our ancient DNA lab. Also, how this archaeological dig is part of Alan Cooper’s favourite ongoing project.
Our ancient animal, human, plant, and even bacterial samples are obtained from around the world and, though we conduct much of our work in ACAD’s ancient DNA laboratories, we do get the chance to visit some of the amazing places where ancient DNA may be lurking. One of Alan Cooper’s key interests is the extinction of the world’s megafauna (i.e. the super large mammals that roamed the planet thousands of years ago). Recently, Alan and several of his American collaborators were successful in a National Science Foundation grant to excavate Natural Trap Cave, in Wyoming, USA, to obtain megafaunal bones of extinct animals Continue reading