National Geographic is currently running a feature on their website that provides information on upcoming field projects for 2009. Two in particular caught my attention:
The Human Origins Project
The Human Origins Project is the most ambitious and comprehensive undertaking of its kind, and researchers have high hopes for its outcomes. Goals of the mission include creating a Web resource that contributes to our understanding of human origins; educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists; providing means of research for global and indigenous paleontologists, geologists, scientists, and students; creating a collaborative community and virtual meeting space for anyone interested in human origins; and presenting a prehistory of early humans. Scientists in the field and in the lab are working hard to ensure the vast potential of the Human Origins Project is realized.
The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project is seeking to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. In this unprecedented and of real-time research effort, the Genographic Project is closing the gaps of what science knows today about humankind’s ancient migration stories.
The Genographic Project is a five-year research partnership led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells. Dr. Wells and a team of renowned international scientists and IBM researchers, are using cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots. The three components of the project are: to gather field research data in collaboration with indigenous and traditional peoples around the world; to invite the general public to join the project by purchasing a Genographic Project Public Participation Kit; and to use proceeds from Genographic Public Participation Kit sales to further field research and the Genographic Legacy Fund which in turn supports indigenous conservation and revitalization projects. The Project is anonymous, non-medical, non-profit and all results will be placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication.
I took part in the Genographic Project in 2006 and can happily say it was one of the most interesting and rewarding things I have done. Aside from contributing to a global database to help deepen our understanding of human migration, you are learning about yourself and your ancestors. After a couple months, you’ll receive the results of you DNA analysis (either maternal or paternal) along with a map of your family tree, tracking your ancestors all the way back their common root in Africa through the mutations in your genetic makeup. Tell me that isn’t cool?
The Genographic Project Participation Kit is available here.