March 22, 2011
Spencer Wells, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, comes to The University of Tampa on Wednesday, March 23, to speak to the University community about his Genographic Project.
Most people can count at least one relative who has tried to trace their
family’s past, scouring through documents and photos and oral
These days, the Internet has made researching easier
and television shows like NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” chronicle
celebrities tracing their family histories through time.
if you could go back further than 200 years? What if you could go back
200,000 years, tracing our ancestral branches further back than any TV
show could dream? That’s Spencer Wells’ mission.
Geographic Explorer-in-Residence comes to The University of Tampa on
Wednesday, March 23, to speak to the University community about his
The five-year research project by National Geographic and IBM involves
mapping the genetic codes of people around the world and tracing
migration patterns from the place where every human family originates —
“It should be absolutely fascinating,” said Stephen
Kucera, geneticist and UT associate biology professor, of the Wednesday
Wells, a population geneticist, has been to more than
three dozen countries including Chad, Tajikistan, Morocco, Papua New
Guinea and French Polynesia, collecting DNA samples from indigenous and
traditional peoples. The project is open to anyone willing to take a
cotton swab and swipe the inside of their cheek, sending the results
back to the Genographic Project lab.
Just as archeologists use
artifacts, geneticists use DNA sequencing as a tool to study human
migration patterns. Kucera said the sharp decrease in the cost of DNA
sequencing has made it more ubiquitous. “Scientists can look at a level
of detail in our DNA on a scale that was impossible just four or five
years ago. And it is only going to become cheaper.”
importance for students – for anyone, really – is in recognizing the
similarities that unite all humans through our DNA, Kucera said.
a variety of reasons, we tend to focus on differences between us,”
Kucera said. “However, humans share 99 percent plus of our DNA,
nucleotide for nucleotide. The percentage difference between us is
The event is co-sponsored by the International
Programs Office and the Baccalaureate Experience. The lecture begins at 6
p.m. in Reeves Theater.
Watch more on the Genographic Project.
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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