UCL Division of Biosciences


GEE Seminar – Dr Jennifer Raff, University of Kansas

25 October 2023, 12:00 pm–1:00 pm

Title: ‘Ancient DNA Research with Indigenous Communities across North America’

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni




Amy Godfrey


Malet Place Engineering Building

Academic Host: Adam Rutherford
Abstract: The Americas were the last continents to be peopled by modern humans, but many questions remain about the details of this process. The genetic variation of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, which could give us more insights into this process, is poorly characterized relative to other populations. This is due to a history of abusive research practices which has made many Native American communities—particularly in North America—understandably reluctant to participate in genetics research, or to give consent for their Ancestors’ genomes to be studied. In this talk, I’ll give a brief overview of what we know about the genetic origin of Native Americans, as well as the harms to Native peoples that have resulted from the process of collecting that knowledge. I’ll discuss how this history has shaped the current research landscape in North America, and summarize recommendations from Indigenous geneticists and bioethicists for how to do paleogenomics research with their communities in a good way. Finally, I’ll discuss how our group engages with North American tribes and communities in our research, and some of the successes and challenges we have had in this work.

About the Speaker

Dr Jennifer Raff

Associate Professor at University of Kansas

My research examines the histories of human populations in North America using genomes from both contemporary and ancestral populations. I investigate the initial peopling of the Americas, the peopling of the North American Arctic, regional population histories and mortuary practices of the Eastern Woodlands and the Great Plains, and the impact of European colonization. I’m also involved in projects related to ethics in genetics research with Indigenous peoples, genomics capacity building among Indigenous communities, and public scientific literacy. My students and I take an engaged, collaborative approach to research with tribes. We believe that genetics is a useful tool that can complement Indigenous knowledge in obtaining a better understanding of the past and the lives of ancestors.

More about Dr Jennifer Raff