Genetic Diversity in Africa to be Explored at Duquesne’s Darwin Day

An exploration of the rich genetic diversity of the African people will be at the center of the 2016 Darwin Day celebration at Duquesne University.

Featured speaker Dr. Sarah Tishkoff will present African Evolutionary Genomics: A Modern Look at Human Genetic Diversity on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Power Center Ballroom on campus. Tishkoff, a human evolutionary geneticist from the University of Pennsylvania, will discuss her work in characterizing patterns of genomic variation, ancestry and local adaptation across diverse African populations.

All people ultimately can trace their ancestry back to Africa, the continent thought to be the homeland of modern humanity, according to Darwin Day organizers, biologists Dr. Michael Seaman and Dr. David Lampe. However, the genetic diversity of this region is often not represented in human genomics studies.

"We know surprisingly little about the patterns of genetic variation within Africa, a tremendously diverse continent culturally, ethnically, linguistically," said Seaman, associate professor of biology in Duquesne's Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences. "Dr. Tishkoff's research is shedding light on these patterns, which in turn can help inform us about the origins of all of humanity."

Held annually, Duquesne's Darwin Day is among the worldwide events honoring the life and work of Charles Darwin, the founding father of evolutionary theory. The event also highlights the importance of science education by featuring presentations by evolutionary experts that anyone can attend. 

Lampe, associate professor of biology in the Bayer School, believes such educational opportunities are essential in helping everyone to understand the significance of evolution and its impact on the future of our world.

"Evolution is the unifying principle underlying all fields of modern biology," Lampe said. "It is important for the public to understand the basics and the reality of evolution as we face the many biology-related challenges ahead such as human disease, climate change and emerging viruses."

Darwin Day is co-sponsored by the dean's office of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and the Center for African Studies. African Evolutionary Genomics: A Modern Look at Human Genetic Diversity is free and open to the public, with a reception to follow. To learn more, email or call 412.396.4900.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.