Nancy Bird

Nancy Bird

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Nancy Bird

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Start Year

2018 (Cohort 5)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

How environmentally-induced adaptation and migration events have shaped the DNA of worldwide human populations.

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
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Human genetic diversity varies between populations due to a large range of processes. This PhD will investigate the genetic structure and signals of admixture and adaptation in worldwide human populations and relate these findings to environmental factors, using unpublished DNA data from >2000 individuals that e.g. represent >200 ethnicities sampled across Africa. I will determine how genetic relatedness among populations is shaped by geographical, topographical, historical, and social factors, such as shared linguistics and customs. I will then apply state-of-the-art statistical methods to provide detailed inference of which groups have intermixed and when, which I will compare to records of environmental and political change that may have instigated the large-scale movement of peoples (e.g. the expansion of the Bantu agropastorialists throughout sub-Saharan Africa). Furthermore, I will identify regions of the genome that show evidence of selection, and the specific populations that carry these selection signals in order to understand the common environmental pressures (e.g. infectious disease, diet, climate, social factors) that have impacted human adaptation in different parts of the world. Finally, I will use our unprecedented African resource to shed new light on the longstanding controversy regarding the number and routes of initial waves of migration out of Africa.

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