National Geographic released some additional information today about both Version 1.0 and the new Version 2.0 of its tests and the program as a whole.
Phase 1 – Geno 1.0
“Our first phase drew participation from more than a half-million participants from over 130 countries. It is evidence of enormous interest in deep ancestry among the global public — tracing the paths their ancestors took as they migrated around the world over the past 60,000 years,” said Project Director Dr. Spencer Wells, a population geneticist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. “Now, the Genographic Project’s second phase creates an even greater citizen science opportunity — and the more people who participate, the more our scientific knowledge will grow.”
During Genographic’s first phase, Wells and project scientists traveled the globe to collaborate with tens of thousands of indigenous people, whose genetics are particularly significant in determining human migratory routes. Wells and Pierre Zalloua, principal investigator in the Middle East, for example, collaborated with the Toubou people of northern Chad, whose DNA has revealed insights into ancient migrations across the Sahara. Genographic’s principal investigator in the Oceana region, Lisa Matisoo-Smith, worked intensively with people on the remote south Pacific island of Emirau, collecting DNA samples and sharing the results with them.
The Genographic Project team worked with individuals, institutions and organizations all over the world to find and tell their genetic stories, including the prime minister of Kazakhstan, who invited Wells and his colleagues to collect DNA samples in his country after becoming fascinated with his family story as revealed by his Genographic kit results; the people of Barbados, who requested a study on the pattern of diversity in the country using the public participation kits; and members of the public in South Africa, who learned that they carry links to the region’s earliest inhabitants, the San people, in addition to genetic lineages from elsewhere in Africa, India and Europe.
The project also tested 200 random people on a single day on a block of Queens, New York, to demonstrate the area’s diversity. In a collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s multidisciplinary education foundation The Silk Road Project, more than 400 students at four New York City public schools swabbed their cheeks and traced their ancient ancestry.
Geno 2.0 – New Interface
National Geographic says that participants will receive their results through a newly designed, multi-platform Web experience. In addition to full visualizations of their migratory path and regional affiliations, participants can share information on their genealogy to inform scientists about recent migratory events. These stories also can be shared with the broader Genographic Project community; as the number of contributions grows, the experience will become richer, as participants learn more about themselves and their shared ancestry. Results also can be shared as an infographic for social platforms.
Scientific Papers Published
Seven years into this project, benefits are being reaped at unprecedented levels. Already, project results have led to the publication of 35 scientific papers, reporting results such as the origin of Caucasian languages, the early routes of migrations out of Africa, the footprint of the Phoenicians in the Mediterranean, the genetic impact of the Crusades and the genetic origins of the Romanian royal dynasty that included Vlad the Impaler. The project’s DNA results and analysis are stored in a database that is the largest collection of human anthropological genetic information ever assembled.
“The Genographic Project truly represents another facet of a new age of exploration. The newest Genographic technology will push the limits of our research, inspiring us to learn more about ourselves and leveraging the insights gleaned so far to take citizen science and genetic testing to a whole new level,” said Terry Garcia, executive vice president of Mission Programs at National Geographic.
New Grants Available
New to the second phase of Genographic, the project will invite applications for grants from researchers around the world for projects studying the history of the human species. Sample research topics could include the origin and spread of the Indo-European languages, genetic insights into regions of high linguistic diversity such as Papua New Guinea, the number and routes of migrations out of Africa, the origin of the Inca or the genetic impact of the spread of maize agriculture in the Americas.
While this press release does not mention it specifically, my understanding from previous discussions with Spencer Wells suggested that this would not be limited solely to academic researchers and that project administrators and citizen scientists’ applications would be considered as well.
Geno 2.0 continues the tradition of the Legacy Fund, established 7 years ago with the first tests. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Genographic Participation Kits funds project research and the Genographic Legacy Fund, which awards grants to support community-led cultural conservation and revitalization initiatives among indigenous and traditional communities around the world. So far, the Genographic Project has provided 62 Legacy Fund grants worth $1.7 million. Efforts supported by the grants include the creation of teaching materials on the ancient wisdom of the Chuj in a Maya community in Guatemala and the revitalization of indigenous languages in Nepal, India, Taiwan, French Polynesia, Mexico and Bolivia.
New Education Initiative – GenoThreads
A new education program called GenoThreads enables science, culture and geography to be naturally woven into a shared educational experience. GenoThreads connects students and teachers around the world who are using Genographic participation kits; this allows a cross-cultural exchange between students via email and videoconference for a truly global experience. In the first GenoThreads project, high school students in Switzerland are sharing their results with those halfway across the world in Singapore.
Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Genographic Project’s newly created website at www.genographic.com. Featuring National Geographic photography, as does this blog today, the website gives Genographic participants the opportunity to learn more about their own ancestry and find ancestral connections. The Genographic Project remains nonmedical and nonprofit, and all analysis results are placed in the public domain following scientific publication. The Genographic Project serves as an unprecedented resource for geneticists, historians, anthropologists and citizen scientists.
Excitement Surrounding Geno 2.0 Tests
There is a lot of excitement about the new Geno 2.0 tests in the genetic genealogy community, and more than a little restless shuffling of feet. Genetic genealogists are not a patient lot, albeit from the best of motives.
We want to see our results, sooner than later, and we want to play with them. We want to upload them to Family Tree DNA and have them integrated with the rest of our DNA tests and information, available to use – one stop shopping. We want to download them to our computers and use them in a myriad of ways. We want to see if we gained branches, or twigs, on our haplotrees.
We want to see who we connect to, and how closely. We want to ping our anthropological neighbors on the new website and invite them to download their information to Family Tree DNA as well. We want more project members. We want matches where we have none and more where we have some.
We want to know if we are Neanderthal or Denisovian, and how much. We wonder if our minority admixture, whatever it is, will be revealed or if it’s too far back in time. And on a research level, we want to know which populations were used, which new autosomal SNPs were discovered, and the frequencies they are found worldwide. I know, we want, we want, we want.
Exciting tidbits arrive periodically, whetting our appetite. We already knew that the Y-tree had to be rebuilt during vetting of the Geno 2.0 chip, but more recently, it appears that perhaps the tree is being reorganized, again, already, with the first run of data. Such conflicted feelings. So glad such wonderful discoveries are being made, but so impatient to see what they are. And that’s the whole lot of us, not just a few:)
Good thing it’s December…looks like Santa has a big wish list from us to fulfill and National Geographic, indeed, is going to be one of Santa’s biggest helpers! Now if they could just HURRY:) Maybe we should add a dose of patience to the things we want……Nah. I just hope lots and lots of other people want this too!!!
All photos are copyright protected by the National Geographic Society.