The series includes seminars with invited high-profile speakers from across the Institute’s subject areas, including marine and climate science, energy, evolutionary biology, ecology and biodiversity, and ancient DNA.
The presentation Next generation amplicon sequencing to characterise fossil, faecal, food and forensic samples discussed next-generation DNA sequencing.
Mike’s research interests revolve around using ancient DNA to study evolutionary processes and using ancient DNA profiles to investigate past biodiversity. He has worked on a diverse variety of projects with the common theme of extracting and amplifying degraded DNA; these include studies of New Zealand’s extinct birds and obtaining DNA profiles from ice/sediment cores. The lab research is focused around using ancient DNA as a tool to profile past biodiversity and extinction events. Mike says ‘Conservation and restoration of biodiversity is best achieved if we understand the past composition and function of the ecosystems we are trying to restore’.
Researchers from the Environment Institute’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) have led an International research team that have used DNA preserved in calcified bacteria on the teeth of ancient human skeletons to shed light on the health consequences of the evolving diet and behaviour from the Stone Age to the modern day.
The ancient genetic record reveals the negative changes in oral bacteria brought about by the dietary shifts as humans became farmers, and later with the introduction of food manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution.
Late Iron Age/Roman woman showing large dental calculus deposit, from Cambridge area, UK. Photo: Alan Cooper
The international team, led by ACAD, where the research was performed, has published the results in Nature Genetics today. Other team members include the Department of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge (UK).
“This is the first record of how our evolution over the last 7500 years has impacted the bacteria we carry with us, and the important health consequences,” says study leader Professor Alan Cooper, ACAD Director.
“Oral bacteria in modern man are markedly less diverse than historic populations and this is thought to contribute to chronic oral and other disease in post-industrial lifestyles.”
The researchers extracted DNA from tartar (calcified dental plaque) from 34 prehistoric northern European human skeletons, and traced changes in the nature of oral bacteria from the last hunter-gatherers, through the first farmers to the Bronze Age and Medieval times.
Researchers at the University of Sydney and the University of Adelaide have discovered that Tasmanian devils had low immune gene diversity for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years before the emergence of Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
“It is well known that low genetic diversity is a major extinction risk factor, but when and how devils lost their immune diversity has remained a mystery until now,” said senior author Katrina Morris, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney.
Dr Jeremy Austin from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA
“Devils once lived across much of mainland Australia, but became extinct sometime in the last few thousand years,” said Dr Jeremy Austin, from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.
“We looked at subfossil bones of these extinct mainland devils, as well as museum specimens of Tasmanian devils collected over the last 200 years. They capture the genetic diversity of the past allowing us to see how the immune gene diversity has changed over thousands of years.”
The research was supported by funding from the Australian Research Council, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Foundation and Zoos SA.
A new paper involving Environment Institute members Janette Edson, Alan Cooper and Jeremy Austin, as well as Elizabeth Brooks (Forensic and Data Centres, The Australian Federal Police), Carolyn McLaren (University of Canberra), James Robertson (University of Canberra), Dennis McNevin (University of Canberra) has recently been published in the Journal Forensic Science International:Genetics.
The paper titled, ‘A quantitative assessment of a reliable screening technique for the STR analysis of telogen hair roots’ looks at human telogen hairs, which are commonly recovered as trace evidence but currently have limited use for forensic DNA analysis. The paper presents methods that can be incorporated into routine trace and DNA analysis, providing an efficient and cost effective method to screen telogen hairs and predict STR (short tandem repeats) profiling success prior to destructive DNA analysis. The results of this study indicate telogen hairs may provide a reliable source of nuclear DNA for use in routine casework.
Ancient dung from a cave in the South Island of New Zealand has revealed a previously unsuspected relationship between two of the country’s most unusual threatened species.
A New Zealand short-tailed bat pictured while eating dactylanthus. Photo by Nga Manu Nature Reserve.
Fossilised dung (coprolites) of a now rare parrot, the nocturnal flightless kakapo, contained large amounts of pollen of a rare parasitic plant, dactylanthus (commonly known as “wood rose” or “Hades flower”), which lives underground and has no roots or leaves itself.
Researchers from the Environment Institute’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Landcare Research and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand report the discovery in a new paper published in the journal Conservation Biology.
A new paper involving Environment Institute members Jessica Metcalf (now University of Colorado), Alan Cooper and Jeremy Austin, as well as Sierra Stowell (University of Colorado), Chris Kennedy (Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office), Kevin Rogers (Colorado Parks and Wildlife), Daniel McDonald (University of Colorado), Janet Epp (Pisces Molecular, LLC), Kyle Keepers (University of Colorado) and Andrew Martin (University of Colorado) has recently been published in the journal Molecular Ecology.
“Jeremy has made the quantum leap from using techniques for scientific research to using them for direct human benefit. He has pioneered the transfer of new methods and technology into practical applications suitable for industry, particularly the forensics community. Having this calibre of scientist in our state is of enormous importance to South Australia.” (National Science Week)
A new paper involving Environment Institute members Alan Cooper and Nicolas Rawlence, from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, as well as Richard Gillespie (University of Wollongong/Australian National University), Aaron Camens (The University of Adelaide), Trevor Worthy (University of New South Wales), Craig Reid (Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery), Fiona Bertuch and Vladimir Levchenko (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) has recently been published in the Journal Quaternary Science Reviews.
Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD and one of the contributing academics
The paper is titled ‘Man and megafauna in Tasmania: closing the gap’ and reports on a series of new radiocarbon ages and C:N ratios on collagen and dentine fractions from skeletal remains in the Mount Cripps karst area and the Mowbray Swamp and discusses the reliability of ages from these and other sites. The study also reports the discovery of an articulated Simosthenurus occidentalis skeleton at Mt Cripps, that represents only the second directly-dated extinct megafaunal taxon with a reliable age <50 ka cal BP from Tasmania.