Prof Alan Cooper awarded prestigious 2014 Australian Laureate Fellowship

16 Australian Laureate Awards were announced today. The Environment Institute’s Prof Alan Cooper has been successful in his proposal of a project that will use ancient microbiomes and genomes to reconstruct human history, including indigenous Australians. Alan Cooper is the only recipient in the state to receive the prestigious award.

“The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme reflects the Commonwealth’s commitment to support excellence in research by attracting world-class researchers and research leaders to key positions, and creating new rewards and incentives for the application of their talents in Australia.”

The award will provide a total of $2,775,898.00 in funding over the next 6 years.

Project Summary
Using ancient microbiomes and genomes to reconstruct human history: This project aims to generate unique insights
into the processes and history that produced the current distribution of modern humans and the bacteria we carry with us (our microbiome). The project will use combined signals of bacterial, genomic and climate data to reconstruct the impacts of migrations, changes in diet, environment, and health in different parts of the world. A key aspect will be the creation of a program to map the genetic history of indigenous Australia, and the impacts of colonisation on indigenous people around the world. Research advances will be transferred to Early Career Researchers through an innovative program of workshops, and the resulting data will be used to create a new format for Australian genetic databases.

Alan Cooper said in an interview with the Advertiser: “I’m delighted to be awarded this Fellowship which will allow ACAD to pursue this nationally and globally significant project. This project will have major cultural and social impacts in Australia and beyond, including the creation of a program to directly engage Aboriginal communities in scientific research to record their genetic history and place in Australia. “Internationally, we aim to discover the genetic processes and effects of major events such as the introduction of farming or European colonisation. Uniquely it will reveal the impacts on human microbiomes — the bacteria we carry — and potential health consequences.”

Prof Cooper was also interviewed by Ian Henschke on ABC 891 Adelaide about how his new fellowship project will help reconstruct the history of Aboriginal people in Australia.

Read an official Australian Laureate biography of Prof Alan Cooper on the ARC website and a list of the successful proposals.

Professor Cooper has just returned from a successful adventure to Wyoming where he explored a natural trap cave 30 metres underground to discover skeletons of creatures that had fallen in to the natural sinkhole over the last 100 000 years. read more about the trip here.

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