Alan Cooper

Professor Alan Cooper

Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Change

Gulbali Institute


My career has been built around my love of fieldwork, often involving caving in weird and wonderful parts of the world – where I collect ancient and modern samples of animals and plants, sediments, water and other materials. I specialize in developing new ways to extract detailed genetic signals from them, to study past environments and the impacts of climate and human caused changes. I started my ancient research in Allan Wilson’s Lab at UC Berkeley with Svante Pääbo in 1989, performing some of the first ancient DNA studies and building the field standards for ancient DNA. My main interest has always been research that spans multiple disciplines and focuses on unconventional approaches to answer big picture questions. I have a broad background that ranges across climate change, environmental science, genomics, and evolution, with many detours. My standard approach is to build international teams of multi-disciplinary experts interested in tackling major scientific questions. Recent examples include the history of humans as we left Africa and dispersed around the world, the role of geomagnetism and solar weather in climate and evolution, and microbiology and human dental health and medicine.

  • environmental DNA/microbiomes
  • climate change
  • genetic selection/adaptation
  • genomics
  • evolution
  • microbiology
  • palaeontology
  • archaeology/paleoanthropology
  • solar weather
  • geomagnetism
  • molecular dating
Full publications list on CRO
Recent Publications

Tobler, R., Y. Souilmi, C. D. Huber, N. Bean, C. S. M. Turney, S. T. Grey, and A. Cooper. "The role of genetic selection and climatic factors in the dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 120, 22 (2023): e2213061120-e2213061120.

Souilmi, Yassine, Raymond Tobler, Angad Johar, Matthew Williams, Shane T. Grey, Joshua Schmidt, João C. Teixeira et al. "Admixture has obscured signals of historical hard sweeps in humans." Nature Ecology & Evolution 6, 12 (2022): 2003-2015.

Gretzinger, Joscha, Duncan Sayer, Pierre Justeau, Eveline Altena, Maria Pala, Katharina Dulias, Ceiridwen J. Edwards et al. "The Anglo-Saxon migration and the formation of the early English gene pool." Nature 610, 7930 (2022): 112-119.

Cooper, Alan, Chris SM Turney, Jonathan Palmer, Alan Hogg, Matt McGlone, Janet Wilmshurst, Andrew M. Lorrey et al. "A global environmental crisis 42,000 years ago." Science 371, 6531 (2021): 811-818.

Perri, Angela R., Kieren J. Mitchell, Alice Mouton, Sandra Álvarez-Carretero, Ardern Hulme-Beaman, James Haile, Alexandra Jamieson et al. "Dire wolves were the last of an ancient New World canid lineage." Nature 591, 7848 (2021): 87-91.