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GeoGenetics Group

Clean DNA Lab

The newly established GeoGenetics Group in Cambridge focuses on a wide range of ecological and evolutionary questions, predominately through the application of NGS techniques, to better understand how populations, species and ecosystems change over time. We employ state-of-the-art experimental and computational approaches to generate new datasets and develop novel methods for their analyses. Areas of particular interest include population genetics, selective processes, adaptive evolution and biodiversity responses to past environmental change, as informed by ancient and modern omics data obtained from various species and sample types. The group has access to world-class ancient DNA, modern molecular biology and sequencing labs and facilities, and maintains close ties with the Centre for GeoGenetics Centre at the Natural History Museum in Denmark, Copenhagen, which is also led by Professor Eske Willerslev.

Current research topics include:

Human population genomics
We use whole-genome sequencing data from ancient and contemporary humans to understand the key demographic processes that contributed to the formation of the genetic diversity, structure, adaptations and disease distributions found in present-day worldwide populations. Since our study of the first ancient modern human genome (Nature 2010), we have published several ancient human population genomics papers on the peopling of the Americas, Europe, Australia and the North American Arctic.

Environmental genomics
We are interested in past evolutionary and ecological processes in populations, communities and ecosystems that shed light on the extant biological diversity and its future trajectories. Ecological topics of particular interest include resilience to past environmental change across the levels of ecological organisation, interaction dynamics between populations of different species on millennial time scales, and the stability of structure and function of past ecosystems. Evolutionary theme broadly covers biological diversification in recent geological history across the kingdoms, and particularly through evolutionary processes such as adaptation, speciation and extinction.

Method development
We work on delivering innovative methods and technologies in ancient genomics to help resolve both new and long-standing scientific questions in the field. We are currently focusing on developing a method for high-throughput sequencing of single fossil pollen grains as part of the Leverhulme Trust funded SinPoll Project. The method relies on an innovative fusion of two established paleo-proxies - fossil pollen and aDNA - with state-of-the-art single-cell sequencing technologies and, if successful, it would enable a high-resolution reconstruction of past population dynamics for thousands of plant species worldwide, including those from low latitude, species-rich regions.


Enrico Cappellini, Ana Prohaska, et al. (In press) Ancient Biomolecules and Evolutionary Inference. Annual Review of Biochemistry. Volume 87, 2018.

Raghavan M, et al. Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans. Science. 2015. 349(6250):aab3884

Allentoft M, et al. Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia. Nature. 2015. 522(7555):167-172

Pedersen MW, et al. Postglacial viability and colonization in North America's ice-free corridor. Nature. 2016. 537(7618):45-49

Willerslev E, et al. Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet. Nature. 2014. 506(7486):47-51

List of Publications


Contact Details

Group Leader

Professor Eske Willerslev

Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Downing St

01223  (3)36668

Group Members