What makes species go extinct? Can you clone a mammoth? Evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro analyzes the genes of ancient plants and animals to trace the complex relationship between environment, extinction and the evolution of species. The discovery two decades ago that DNA could be extracted from fossil remains launched a new field of study ― molecular palentology. Using DNA recovered from these remains, it was possible to trace the evolution of species on a molecular level, actually watching evolution as it happens. By understanding how populations and species evolve, that information can be used to make decisions on how to better manage problems such as species extinction or habitat destruction. An international expert on ancient DNA, Shapiro has worked with DNA from mammoths, dodos, passenger pigeons, and other extinct species.
2014 Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Award Recipient: Joel Greenberg