ASTURIAS, Spain —National Geographic’s Genographic Project, a multiyear global research initiative that uses DNA to map the history of human migration, is working with the citizens of Asturias to yield tantalizing clues about humankind’s journey.
The Dome at Niemeyer Center will host a series of activities with the National Geographic team, the highlight being a public DNA cheek swab event on Saturday, April 20, where 100 local volunteers will have the opportunity to trace their family history as far back as 2,000 generations. Their ancient ancestry out of Africa will be revealed through the Genographic Project, a landmark not-for-profit study that has involved more than 550,000 people around the world since it commenced in 2005.
Genographic Project scientists have traveled the globe to collaborate with tens of thousands of indigenous people, whose genetics are particularly significant in determining human migratory routes, including work in Spain. This past year, the Genographic Project released the most comprehensive analysis to date of Basque genetic patterns, showing that Basque genetic uniqueness predates the arrival of agriculture in the Iberian Peninsula some 7,000 years ago.
Just recently, the Genographic Project launched Geno 2.0, a new DNA testing kit that uses advanced technology to give the most relevant ancestry results possible. This public swab event in Asturias using Geno 2.0 is the first of its kind in Europe and aims to utilize new technology to provide additional insight into the genetic makeup of this northern region of Spain.
A select group of diverse Asturias residents has already agreed to participate in this important research project ahead of the public event, and their Geno 2.0 results will be revealed at a public lecture on Thursday, April 18, in anticipation of the wider swab event. Other residents are invited to join the gathering on April 20 to gain insight into the project and their or their neighbors’ ancestry. Participants’ DNA will be examined by a unique collection of nearly 150,000 DNA identifiers that offers rich, ancestry-relevant information from across the entire human genome.
In addition to learning their detailed migratory history, participants will learn how their DNA is affiliated with various regions in the world, and also if they have traces of Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry — from our ancient hominid “cousins” who lived in Europe and parts of Asia tens of thousands of years ago before going extinct.
Genographic Project Director Dr. Spencer Wells, a population geneticist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, said, “This provides a great citizen science opportunity — and the more people who participate, the more our scientific knowledge will grow.”
Asturias residents are invited to take part in a series of events celebrating their ancient heritage and diversity:
- Public Lecture and Genographic Project Exhibit Opening by National Geographic Explorer and Project Director Dr. Spencer Wells: Wells will take the audience on a tour that spans the globe and 60,000 years, tracing the migrations of our ancient ancestors using genetic signposts carried in the DNA of people living today. The research reveals how the tapestry of human diversity has been created through these epic journeys. Thursday, April 18, at 8 p.m. at the Dome.
- Film screening of the National Geographic Channel documentary, “The Human Family Tree”: This film shows how, on a single day on a single street, with the DNA of just a couple of hundred random people, the Genographic Project sets out to trace the ancestral footsteps of all humanity. Friday, April 19, at 8 p.m. at the Dome.
- Public DNA Swab with Geno 2.0 DNA Ancestry kits: With a simple and painless cheek swab, 100 participants will submit a sample of their own DNA to the Genographic Project. The results will give participants an unprecedented view of their lineage. This is an opportunity to participate in a real-time scientific research effort and to connect with other participants to see how we are all related. The first 100 people who register at firstname.lastname@example.org will qualify for the free tests. Tests are limited to one male or female member from each family. The testing is completely non-medical. More Genographic testing kits will be on sale at all the events; kits can also be purchased online from www.genographic.com. A portion of the proceeds from Geno 2.0 kits goes to further research and to the Genographic Legacy Fund that supports community-led indigenous conservation and revitalization projects. Saturday, April 20, at 12:30 p.m. at the Dome.
- School Event: The Genographic Project also plans to visit with area high school students on Friday, April 19, at 11 a.m. at the Dome. The project will offer students opportunities to learn how their ancestors populated the world and how we are more alike than we are different.
National Geographic was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication in 2006 for its efforts to inspire people to care about the planet.
National Geographic’s upcoming visit to Asturias is one of several events this year that celebrate the Society’s 125th anniversary and “A New Age of Exploration.” Renowned for its storytelling, photography, maps and support of exploration and conservation, the Society is marking its anniversary by reaffirming its role at the forefront of discovery and adventure.
Genographic Project images are available at http://press2.nationalgeographic.com/downloads/geno/.
Username: Press / Password: Press
A full press kit, including details on the Geno 2.0 kits, is available at https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/press/.
Visit the Genographic Project’s website: www.genographic.com.
About National Geographic
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 450 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television programs; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; interactive media; school publishing programs; expeditions; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
About Niemeyer Center
The Niemeyer Center of Avilés (Asturias) is an open door to all types of art and cultural statements. Music, cinema, theatre, dance, exhibitions, gastronomy or spoken word are the main characters in a multidisciplinary cultural programme in which excellence is the sole common denominator. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and opened in spring 2011, this complex is symbol of the modern and booming Asturias of the future and is meant to be the centerpiece of a larger development — the Island of Innovation. For more information, visit www.niemeyercenter.org.