Research at the University of Utah Ancient DNA (aDNA) Laboratory is focused on the use of molecular genetic methods to evaluate population histories. Similar to the use of contemporary genetic data to infer population and evolutionary events that have structured modern genetic variation, aDNA research provides an explicit temporal scale to such historical and evolutionary reconstructions by examining patterns of genetic variation in prehistoric populations.
The Ancient DNA Laboratory's research is focused on applications in understanding population history in the Americas – particularly the North American arctic. For more than a decade, Prof. Dennis O'Rourke and graduate students have spent summers conducting field work in various locations in the Arctic, especially in the state of Alaska. Although most research projects have focused on human population history, we are increasingly investigating archaeofaunal and archaeobotanical materials as alternative ways of learning about prehistoric human behavior and migration.
Our dedicated aDNA facilities include three physically separated locations for pre-PCR (cleanroom), PCR and post-PCR work, enabling us to ensure the rigorous aDNA contamination controls required in the field. Daily workflow is restricted in a clean room -> post-PCR lab direction and all supplies/samples are separated accordingly. Our pre-PCR cleanroom features three separate workrooms with HEPA filtered, staged positive pressured airflow, and built in UV lights. Each room is equipped with individual workstations, also with HEPA filtered airflow, UV lights, and dedicated pipettes and instruments, offering the highest quality control standards for aDNA analyses.