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Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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ARC fellowship opens door to international expertise


Professor Alan Cooper conducting fieldwork in the natural Trap Cave in Wyoming

Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, Professor Alan Cooper, has been awarded a 2014 Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship.

The $2.7 million funding over five years will be used to support his human evolution research program whereby ancient microbiomes and genomes are used to reconstruct human history. It will also give his team of early career researchers the unique opportunity to train under international experts in ecology and evolutionary biology.

"It was a great relief to be awarded the Fellowship," said Professor Cooper. "It's made it possible to plan long term strategies for our research. It has also enabled us to maximise relationships with international colleagues by bringing them here to Australia to work with us at the University of Adelaide and share their knowledge with our emerging researchers."

Professor Cooper specialises in using ancient DnA to record and study evolutionary processes in real time. His research aims to advance knowledge of the processes and history behind today's distribution of humans and the bacteria they carry.

The Fellowship funding will enable Professor Cooper to progress his studies into using combined signals of bacterial, genomic and climate data to reconstruct the impacts of migrations, changes in diet, environment and health in various regions of the world.

His team will also focus on creating a program to map the genetic history of Indigenous Australia and assess the impact of colonisation on the world's native peoples.

A key component of Professor Cooper's program will be a series of workshops, led by world-renowned palaeoecology specialists.

"We'll work on some data sets that we've generated as part of the project but principally the workshops will be about training our team to use software and techniques that the international tutors have developed, which can then be applied to global data sets," explained Professor Cooper.

"young Australian researchers are relatively isolated from exposure to international experts. The workshops are a great opportunity for our team to gain invaluable skills and knowledge from leaders in their field."

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