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Department of Archaeology


The European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants for 2020 have been awarded to 436 researchers from across Europe. These awards help individual researchers build their own teams and conduct world-leading research across all disciplines, creating an estimated 2,500 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff at the host institutions.

Dr Guy Jacobs, Lecturer in Human Evolutionary Genetics and Bioinformatics in the Department of Archaeology, is one of six University of Cambridge early-career academics to receive a grant in the 2020 cohort.

Dr Jacobs’ project is “Movement networks and genetic evolution among tropical hunter-gatherers of island Southeast Asia” (MOBILE) which follows on from his postdoctoral work analysing patterns of genetic diversity in island Southeast Asia at the Complexity Institute, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Guy says, “During my postdoctoral research I became interested in the social rules structuring movement in different groups and their evolutionary effects, firstly focusing on marriage practices such as matrilocality and patrilocality and then on mobility among traditionally hunter-gatherer groups on the island of Borneo.”

The €1.5m ERC grant will now let him investigate the potential adaptive role of movement, both in terms of redistributing human variation and in structuring the transmission of allied biology – our co-evolving microbiome, with all its health associations.

“While migration is recognised as a fundamental process structuring genetic evolution, we know very little about how movement choices impact biological diversity at local scales in traditional societies, including hunter-gatherer groups. These choices – where people decide to go, when, and with whom – are part of the adaptive context of our species, and impact ongoing health, most obviously through disease transmission.”

“This highly interdisciplinary project will work with the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology and communities in Indonesia to study ongoing movement patterns and social networks, as well as human genetic and microbiome diversity, to understand the functional impact of movement on human adaptation and health in island Southeast Asia.”

“It’s an exciting and pioneering study, and I’m hugely grateful to the ERC, the University of Cambridge, my global collaborators, and the communities involved in our projects for helping to make it happen.”