KU Ancient DNA Research Facility


Research in the KU Ancient DNA Research Facility (aDNA cleanroom) is focused on applications in understanding human population history across the world during and since the Last Glacial Maximum. We have particular focus on the North American and Siberian Arctic. Over the past two decades, Drs. Dennis O’Rourke, Jennifer Raff, Lauren Norman, Justin Tackney, post-docs, and graduate students have spent summers conducting field work in various locations in the North American Arctic in collaboration with archaeologists and local communities. We are also increasingly investigating molecular diversity in archaeofaunal and archaeobotanical materials as alternative ways of learning about past human behavior, subsistence, and population movements. Most recently, we have added environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis of soil samples from key archaeological sites to our research program.

The facility is a state-of-the-art cleanroom consisting of one ISO class 7 (Fed class 10,000) gowning area, two ISO class 6 (Fed class 1000) laboratory spaces, and numerous dedicated laminar flow hoods (ISO class 5/Fed class 100). The whole space is positively pressured from ceiling mounted HEPA filters, with air-flow directed from the ‘cleanest’ pre-PCR/library prep room to the main extraction room to the gowning room to the outside environment. Room-wide UV lighting provides daily surface/air sterilizations and all entering personnel don full ‘Tyvek’ cleanroom suits, facemasks, gloves, and sleeve-guards in the gowning room.

The exteriors of the protective garb, as well as all reagents and equipment, are completely bleached before entering the extraction room. The active workspaces in the laboratory are bleached and washed daily, with full lab cleaning scheduled as necessary. Water is provided by a NANO-pure Diamond Water System, fed via a dedicated RO source, though most reagents (including H2O) are purchased in small ultrapure aliquots. The entire laboratory is paper-free to avoid additional sources of contamination. These practices meet (or exceed) the standards for the most stringent measures for ancient DNA work as recommended in the literature, and through the PIs’ several decades of experience in working with ancient biomolecules.

Access to all research laboratories is restricted and movement between them is unidirectional (from aDNA cleanroom to contemporary DNA laboratories) each day.

Get in Touch

    Please feel free to contact us with questions, concerns, or inquiries. We are particularly eager to hear from potential collaborators, potential graduate or undergraduate students, and any community members interested in or affected by our past or current research projects. This form can also be used for any press inquiries, or if you are interested in making a private or public donation to the KU Anthropological Genetics Research Facilities.