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Postdoctoral room G12

Research Project

Hunter-gatherers’ resilience: Past, present and future adaptations to a world in transition (Leverhulme Trust funded)

Research interests

I am interested in investigating the demographic history of a human or animal population on the basis of genetic data, mainly through the use of computer simulations. My education in prehistoric archaeology allows me to integrate genetic and archaeological information in this task.

Work experience

Research Associate, Department of Anthropology University College London, UK (Oct 2012 – current)

Visiting scientist, Human Genetics group, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton (Cambridge), United Kingdom (May – Sept 2012)

Visiting scientist, Computational and Molecular Population Genetics Lab, University of Bern, Switzerland (May – Oct 2010)

Visiting scientist, Molecular and Cultural Evolution Lab, University College London, United Kingdom (Jul – Aug 2009)       

Internship (MEGA Lifelong Learning Program funded), Human Population Genetics Group, Musée de l’Homme - Natural History Museum, Paris, France (Mar – Jul 2008)


Ph.D. in Anthropology (FP7 Marie Curie funded), Palaeogenetics Group, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany (2009 – Current)

MSc Prehistoric Sciences, University of Ferrara, Italy (2007)

BSc Cultural Heritage Technologies, University of Ferrara, Italy (2005)

Socrates – Erasmus fellowship, Université de Provence, Aix-Marseille I, France (Sept 2003 – Feb 2004)

Articles in peer reviewed journals

M. Leonardi, P. Gerbault, M.G. Thomas, J. Burger (2012) The evolution of lactase persistence in Europe. A synthesis of archaeological and genetic evidence. International Dairy Journal, 22(2): 88-97

Book chapters

P. Gerbault, M. Leonardi, A. Powell, C. Weber, N. Benecke, J. Burger, M.G. Thomas (2012) Domestication and migrations: using mitochondrial DNA to infer domestication processes of goats and horses. In: Kaiser E, Schier W, Burger J (eds), Population dynamics in Prehistory and Early History. New Approaches by Stable Isotopes and Genetics, DE GRUYTER 17-29,

M. Leonardi, (2011) The history inside us – How genetic diversity tells us our history, in F. Feulner et al. “May contain traces of milk – Investigating the role of dairy farming and milk consumption in the European Neolithic”, University of York.

M. Leonardi, (2011) Die weiße revolution der Jungsteinzeit, in J. Reinhard (ed.): “Milch! Nahrung - Mythos - Politikum”, Jexhof Bauernhof Museum, Fürstenfeldbruck.

Talks and posters in international congresses

  • M. Leonardi Lactase persistence and milk consumption in Europe: an interdisciplinary approach between genetics and archaeology. 19th Neolithic Seminar “Changing Paradigms: Interdisciplinary Studies of Eurasian Prehistory”, Ljubljana, 8-9 November 2012 (invited)
  • M. Leonardi, J. Burger. Simulating horse domestication with the help of ancient DNA. LeCHE conference, Amsterdam, 28-29 June 2012 (invited)
  • M. Leonardi, C. Weber, N. Benecke, M.G. Thomas, J. Burger. Horse domestication: a computer simulation approach. Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE) meeting, Dublin, 23-26 June 2012 (poster)
  • M. Leonardi, C. Weber, N. Benecke, M.G. Thomas, J. Burger. Ancient DNA, computer simulations and horse domestication. Jacques Monod Conference on “Theoretical and Empirical Advances in Evolutionary Genomics”, Roscoff, France, March 31-April 4 2012 (poster)
  • M. Leonardi, C. Weber, N. Benecke, M.G. Thomas, J. Burger. Horse domestication inferred from ancient DNA data. XI ICAZ international conference (International council for Archaeozoology), 23-28 August 2010, Paris, France (poster).
  • E. Heyer, M. Leonardi, F. Austerlitz Cultural transmission of fitness. 5th European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Conference, 25-27 March 2010. Wroclaw, Poland.
  • M. Leonardi, C. Weber, N. Benecke, M. G. Thomas, J.Burger. Ancient DNA and horse domestication. International Conference “Migrations in Prehistory and Early History, Stable Isotopes and Population Genetics – New Answers to Old Questions?” 24-26 march 2010, Berlin, Germany (invited)
  • E. Heyer, F. Austerlitz, M. Leonardi Cultural transmission of fitness XXIèmes Journées Scientifiques de la Société d’Écologie Humaine: Les transmissions entre generations. 24-25 September 2009. Montpellier, France.
  • M. Leonardi, A. Conzato, P. Fabbri, F. Mallegni, D. Caramelli, G. Barbujani Preliminary analyses of five population samples across 5,000 years in Northwestern Tuscany (Italy) - 51st Symposium and Proffered Papers Meeting “Human dispersals”, Society for the Study of Human Biology, 18-20 June 2009, Rome, Italy.

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