John Wakeley is devising new ways to trace the evolutionary road taken by humans and the creatures with whom we share planet Earth by creating new models that examine how DNA has changed over time.

A theoretical population geneticist, Wakeley’s research focuses on how our DNA changes as it is passed from generation to generation. He is examining how the tendency of humans to live in groups separated by ethnicity or by physical barriers like mountains and rivers affects DNA’s random changes.

Understanding groupings of individuals can be critical to figuring out why our DNA carries particular patterns today. That’s because changes in patterns of genetic variation due to genetic drift – one of the major forces behind evolution – occur more rapidly in smaller populations and subpopulations.