Exploring ancient DNA for environmental insights

Ancient environmental DNA (aeDNA) has revolutionised the study of ancient environments and the evolution of living things. It helps researchers unlock secrets found in sediments, ice, and water and has transformed our understanding of past biodiversity across different timescales, from decades to thousands of years ago. The Environment Institute is privileged to support the training of highly specialised experts in these cutting-edge techniques.

Participants during the workshop

The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) recently hosted a 5-day international workshop titled “Bioinformatic workflows applied to aeDNA data” focused on how to use bioinformatic tools (e.g. databases and software) to analyse aeDNA. The workshop was led by Environment Institute’s Dr Vilma Pérez Godoy (School of Biological Sciences) and brought together world-renowned experts like Dr Mikkel Winther Pedersen (the Globe Institute) and Dr James Fellows Yates (the Max Planck Institute) to guide participants through lectures and hands-on exercises on ancient metagenomics, the study of past genetic information.

Participants gained valuable insights into analysing aeDNA and explored the potential and limitations of this method. This interactive workshop encouraged discussions and collaboration among experienced facilitators and participants from around the world, offering a unique opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships and establish new collaborative networks.

Skills acquired in this workshop will cultivate highly specialised expertise within the University of Adelaide in cutting-edge environmental DNA methods. Most significantly, by fostering collaboration and sharing knowledge, ACAD’s team aims to advance this type of research in Australia, with broad implications that extend to fields such as evolutionary biology, environmental conservation, and climate change studies.

Funding from the Environment Institute and External Engagement Division enabled the workshop to cover essential expenses and provide travel grants, ensuring participants’ inclusivity and accessibility.

Dr Mikkel Winther Pedersen from the Globe Institute

Dr James Fellows Yates from the Max Planck Institute

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