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How to clone a mammoth

Friday, 14 October 2016 9:16am

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specialises in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. View the podcast of her recent public lecture How to clone a mammoth.

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This lecture series is a partnership between Allan Wilson at Otago, University of Otago, and New Zealand Genomics Ltd. Grateful thanks to the Australasian Genomic Technologies Association and the Next Generation Sequencing Conference for supporting Professor Shapiro’s visit to New Zealand.

Exploring 'de-extinction'

Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? Is it possible to clone extinct species using the same or similar technologies that created Dolly the sheep in the 1990s? What are the chances that the science fiction of Jurassic Park will someday become science fact?

In this lecture, Beth Shapiro, ancient DNA scientist and author of How to Clone a Mammoth, discussed the real science behind the emerging idea known as 'de-extinction'. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing and editing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, she walked through the process of resurrecting extinct species, considering the technical, ethical and ecological challenges of de-extinction as well as its potential benefits.

While she argues that it may never be possible to bring back an identical copy of a species that has gone extinct, de-extinction technology is likely to provide new solutions to revitalize and stabilize contemporary ecosystems, with benefits to the preservation of existing biodiversity.

About Associate Professor Beth Shapiro

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specialises in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. A pioneer in the scientific field called ancient DNA, Beth travels extensively in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Siberia and Canada, collecting bones and other remains of long-dead creatures including mammoths, giant bears, extinct camels and horses.

Director for Conservation of the University of California Santa Cruz Genomics Institute and Research Associate of the Denver Museum of Natural History, Beth Shapiro has been widely honoured for her research. She has been named a Royal Society University Research Fellow, Searle Scholar, Packard Fellow, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. In 2009, she received a MacArthur 'genius' award.

Her recent award-winning book, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-extinction has been widely acclaimed for its clarity and accessibility, as it delves into the possibility of, and justification for, bringing extinct species back to life.