Beth Shapiro mines for messages in archaic genomes. And, like other scientists who have become HHMI investigators, she’s accrued stories along the way in her research career.

Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, seeks the narrative thread connecting prehistoric animals’ adaptations to ecological change with possible solutions for modern-day climate change. Her bone-collecting expeditions involve treks through the Yukon and Siberia. She has pioneered methods for extracting trace amounts of DNA from ancient skeletons – and reportedly holds the record for oldest DNA ever analyzed, obtained from the bones of a 700,000-year-old horse.

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