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
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.