Chief Investigator & Wildlife Deputy Theme Leader

University of Adelaide

Prof. Alan Cooper has played a central role in the development of the field of ancient DNA, starting with his PhD research in Allan Wilson’s UC Berkeley laboratory with Svante Paabo in 1989. He established the Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre at the University of Oxford in 1999, where he was the Professor of Ancient Biomolecules from 2001-2005. In 2005 he was awarded an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship, and moved to the University of Adelaide to establish the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD). He has since been an ARC Future Fellow (2011-2014), and is now an ARC Laureate Fellow (2015-2019). He was named the 2016 South Australian Scientist of the Year, and in 2017 won a Eureka Prize for the field-leading Aboriginal Heritage Project, to make a genetic map of Aboriginal Australia.

Prof. Cooper’s research interests include the use of ancient genetic data and analytical approaches to study key evolutionary processes across a broad range of timescales and biogeography – including genomic responses to past climate and environmental changes, extinction events, human evolution and migration, and the evolution of microbiomes and disease. His multi-disciplinary focus integrates data from genomics, bioinformatics and mathematics, archaeology, microbiology, palaeontology, and climate records and has resulted in over 27 papers in Nature and Science.

Recent major research outputs include establishing a new research field of ancient human microbiome research, genomic analyses of human migration in Australia, Europe, and the Americas, and the impacts of climate change on animal, plant, and microbiome evolution.