Erik Ersmark

A new member of the Academy

On January 17th, Love Dalén was elected new member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, joining the class for biosciences. He was one of five new members, three of which joined the class for biosciences and two joining the class for engineering sciences and the class for physics, respectively. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was founded in 1739 and is an independent organisation, whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy is divided into ten scientific disciplines, called classes. Congratulations Love!

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2023 in the media

As the end of the year is approaching, we can look back at a great number of appearances in the media for CPG during 2023. Several publications gained a lot of attention, and CPG researchers were featured both in swedish and international press/TV. Already at the very start of the year, a study covering human genetics in Scandinavia was published in Cell, with results that were brought up for instance by Reuters and Swedish Radio. Just before summer, another paper made the headlines, this time with the first ancient RNA ever recovered from an extinct species. The species in question was the Tasmanian tiger, that went extinct in the 1930’s. Using a preserved skin from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, researchers at CPG were able to retrieve RNA, a breakthrough which was published in Genome Research and reported on by CNN among others. Several new projects were also initiated during 2023. One of them, funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, will explore the consequences of the first encounters between modern humans and megafauna in the northern hemisphere. The project will be multidisciplinary and involve four of CPG’s research groups. Finally, as an example of public outreach, the research at CPG and palaeogenetics in general was presented and explained at a filmed lecture for Utbildningsradion (swedish TV), aimed at the general public in swedish.

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We’re hiring!

CPG is currently growing and today (March 23) we have seven positions open. If you are interested in doing a PhD, Postdoc or to work with us in general, please go to Opportunities for more information. As many new colleagues will arrive soon, we are acquiring more office space in the adjacent corridor here at Stockholm University to make room for everyone. Research groups are also increasing, and except for the original two headed by Love Dalén and Anders Götherström, four more groups have joined CPG: Group Anna Linderholm, Group Tom van der Valk, Group Peter Heintzman and Group David Díez del Molino. We now represent a great range of research topics within ancient DNA, from archaeo- and deep-time genomics to environmental and sedimentary aDNA. The aDNA service facility, funded by SciLifeLab, is also upscaling activities at CPG with a full-time research engineer, starting later this spring. We wish all new colleagues a warm welcome!

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A new Research Leader at CPG

We are glad to announce that Dr. Peter Heintzman will join CPG as a Research Leader in the autumn of 2022. Peter joins us from the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, where he has been working as an Associate Professor for several years. Peter was recently awarded a Wallenberg Academy Fellowship (WAF) to move to Sweden, where he will be emplyed at the Department of Geosciences at Stockholm University. The WAF will allow him to build a research group at CPG comprising several PhD students and postdocs. His research project will be focused on analyzing sedimentary ancient DNA stretching hundreds of thousands of years back in time, with the aim to investigate how Arctic plant and animal communities were affected by past climate change.

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An ERC Advanced Grant

Professor Love Dalén at CPG has been awarded an Advanced Grant (€2.5M) from the European Research Council (ERC). The project (PrimiGenomes) will start in 2023 and aims to develop and implement novel palaeogenomic methods that will enable the study of evolutionary processes across long time-scales. Some of the questions that will be addressed include whether speciation leads to an increased rate of adaptive evolution, to what extent past interglacials caused bottlenecks in Arctic taxa, and how common it has been that extinct species contributed to the genomic make-up of species that still live today. In addition to genome sequencing, the funding from the ERC will be used to hire and train several PhD students and postdocs and to conduct multiple field expeditions to the Arctic.

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CPG is expanding

We are most happy to announce the addition of a new PI at CPG. Tom van der Valk, who recently was hired as a DDLS Fellow at the Swedish Museum of Natural History is joining the Centre. Tom got his PhD in 2019 at Uppsala University, after working on genomics of declining populations, primarily in gorillas. He has previously held a position as Postdoctoral Researcher at CPG and was one of the main authors of the study on the record breaking million-year-old aDNA from mammoths. Most recently he has been working as a bioinformatician for the National Bioinformatics Infrastructure Sweden (NBIS). Tom will, among other things, develop computational methods for analyzing DNA from environmental samples and will work on both ancient and modern DNA from a range of organisms. We wish him a warm welcome!

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A new distinguished professor

The Swedish Research Council has awarded a distinguished professor grant (Rådsprofessur) to Professor Love Dalén at CPG. The grant includes funding for a project aimed at uncovering genomic evolution going back to the Early Pleistocene. The funds will enable new ground-breaking studies of aDNA from several species on an unprecedented time scale, going back a million years in time and beyond. The project will thereby set a new paradigm for palaeogenomic research, with generated data that can help to answer important and unresolved questions in evolutionary biology, regarding issues like adaptive evolution, interspecific hybridisation and demographic impacts from past climate change. The grant will also provide means to expand the research teams at CPG, including several new PhD and postdoc positions.

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A family tree of all rhinos

The genomic status and relationships among rhinoceros species were recently presented in a new study, involving several researchers at CPG. Apart from newly sequenced DNA and previously published data from now living species, DNA was also sequenced from three extinct species; the woolly rhino, Merck ́s rhino and the so-called Siberian unicorn (Elasmotherium sibiricum). After comparing all genomes, a deep split was revealed between the African and Eurasian rhinos, going roughly 16 million years back in time. Another significant discovery was the relatively low levels of genetic diversity detected in all species throughout time. Seemingly, rhinos have adapted to small population sizes, and the low genetic diversity has not led to inbreeding problems or affected their health. However, when comparing modern rhinos with samples from historical and ancient individuals, there is a decreasing diversity seen, which ultimately could contribute to their extinction. The study is published in Open Access in the journal Cell: “Ancient and modern genomes unravel the evolutionary history of the rhinoceros family”. A good popular summary is available in Gizmodo.

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Million-year-old DNA sets new record

A new study led by researchers at CPG and published in Nature has set a new record for ancient DNA. The DNA comes from mammoth teeth found in the Siberian permafrost with an estimated age of over one million years. This makes it by far the oldest DNA ever to be recovered and sequenced. Despite its fragmented state, the DNA reveals new important insights into the evolution of mammoths, including the discovery of a completely new genetic lineage. The record and the exciting results have made headlines worldwide, including coverage on CNN, Reuters, National Geographic and New York Times. Local media coverage has also been intense, and Stockholm University has released the news as a Youtube video.

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New EU-funded project

The Twinning application NEOMATRIX was just granted by the European Commission. NEOMATRIX (Mapping The Neolithic Expansion In The Mediterranean: A Scientific Collective To Promote Archaeogenomics And Evolutionary Biology Research In Turkey) is a joint network project in which the Middle East Technical University (coordinating partner in Turkey), Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (Greece), Stockholm University (Sweden), and Université de Paris – CNRS – Institut Jacques Monod (France) participates. Although the subject is the Neolithisation of the Mediterranean area, the support is mainly for travelling, education and collaboration between the four beneficiaries. Further, it is the first major EC funded network that CPG participates in.

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