Adventures in Paradise
Emory alumni who sail aboard the National Geographic Endeavour from Tahiti to the Cook Islands this summer will bring home more than snapshots of a tropical paradise. Each traveler also will receive a personalized genetic analysis from anthropologist Spencer Wells (above), director of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, a five-year effort to understand human migration.
Wells will accompany Emory travelers on a nine-day, seven-night cruise from Papeete, Tahiti, to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, beginning with a July 24 air departure from Los Angeles. Tour participants who choose to do so will receive a genographic participation kit, which will enable them to submit a cheek swab through a secure and anonymous process and receive an analysis of their personal genetic history in the context of the human diaspora that began with a common African ancestor who lived sixty thousand years ago.
When DNA is passed from one generation to the next, most of it is recombined by the processes that give each of us our individuality. But some parts of the DNA chain remain largely intact through the generations, altered only occasionally by mutations which become "genetic markers." These markers allow geneticists like Wells to trace our common evolutionary timeline back through the ages.
"The greatest history book ever written," Wells says, "is the one hidden in our DNA."
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