Rhodes Scholar and acclaimed researcher of ancient DNA Beth Shapiro discusses her research findings.
She explains why Jurassic Park couldn't work, the lack of genetic diversity in Bison and how mosquitoes can live in the arctic.
"How to make a Dodo," is part of the 2008 Chautauqua Institution's Darwin and Linnaeus: Their Impact on Our View of the Natural World.
Beth Shapiro is an assistant professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University and is a widely acclaimed researcher in the brand-new field of ancient DNA. She was recently a featured scientist in a special Smithsonian magazine section, "37 Under 36: America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences" for her work analyzing the DNA of the long-extinct dodo bird. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2009.
Ancient DNA research analyzes the genes of extinct plants and animals, letting scientists trace the evolution and extinction of species with a precision unimaginable just five years ago. By comparing dodo DNA with the genes of five other species, for example, Dr. Shapiro's research established that the flightless bird was a distant relative of the pigeon. Her 2004 paper in Science argued that the bison decline began much earlier than suspected - about 37,000 years ago - and was thus not caused primarily by human hunters in North America.
As a Rhodes Scholar in 1999, Dr. Shapiro apprenticed with Oxford University's Alan Cooper, a pioneer in ancient DNA research, and in the six years since, she has risen to the top of the field. She would eventually replace Dr. Cooper as the head of Oxford's Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre where she stayed until her appointment at Penn State this fall.
Ancient DNA researcher Beth Shapiro discusses Sergey Zimov's Pleistocene Park in Siberia. Pleistocene Park is an experiment to reproduce the ecosystem of the last ice age and prove that humans not climate change made the Mammoth extinct. Zimov is preparing a habitat in anticipation of a succesful mammoth clone.