Turkana Genomics Project

In a blink of evolutionary time, humans have explored every corner of this planet and as a species have shown an amazing capacity to adapt to extreme conditions. The Turkana, a semi-nomadic tribe, live in northern Kenya in one of the hottest and driest environments in the world, where water scarcity has been a driving force shaping both the lifestyle and the physiology for thousands of years. Importantly, the recent development of roads in Turkana has facilitated the transition of many people to urban centres. There, desert-adapted Turkana experience a radically different set of conditions from their traditional environment.

Lead by Dr Julien Ayroles of Princeton University, the Turkana Evolution Project uses this unique situation to ask two key questions: how have the Turkana adapted to their extreme desert lifestyle? and what happens when a locally adapted population is transplanted to a novel urban environment? This research provides the opportunity to understand the connection between standing genetic variation and phenotypic traits, including the forces that drive or modify this relationship, as well as to reveal how the disruption of these systems may lead to disease.

University and Institution: Princeton University, USA, & Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

Principle Investigators: Dr Julien Ayroles (Princeton) jayroles@princeton.edu & Dr Dino J. Martins (Mpala) director@mpala.org

Project Manager: Michelle Ndegwa, michellendegwa@gmail.com