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Life As We Made It

Dr. Beth Shapiro

Beth Shapiro is an American evolutionary molecular biologist. She is a Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Shapiro's work has centered on the analysis of ancient DNA.  She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (aka “genius grant”) in 2009 and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 2006.

Shapiro was appointed a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Oxford in 2004. The same year she was appointed director of the Henry Wellcome Biomolecules Centre at Oxford, a position she held until 2007.

While at the Biomolecules Centre Shapiro carried out mitochondrial DNA analysis of the dodo.

Shapiro's research on ecology has been published in leading journals including Molecular Biology and EvolutionPLOS BiologyScience and Nature.   In 2007, she was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of 37 young American innovators under the age of 36.


The Paleogenomics Lab at UC Santa Cruz is a joint venture between principle investigators Beth Shapiro, and Richard (Ed) Green. Their research focuses on a wide range of evolutionary and ecological questions, mostly involving the application of genomics techniques to better understand how species and populations evolve through time. 

In general, they extract and characterize ancient DNA from fossil remains.They use that and other data to infer the history of populations and inform conservation and management decisions.They look for patterns and processes in genome evolution.

In the Shapiro Lab, they try to identify periods of growth, decline, dispersal, and replacement in animal populations. Where they can, they integrate these data with climate and environmental records to try to identify what caused the changes in genetic diversity.  The lab has a strong interest in linking genomic data from the past to to that of living populations and in reconstructing changes that happened.

The lab's goal is learning more about the changing human footprint on our planet, and applying that to present day decisions related to the conservation and management of endangered species and habitats.

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