Hendrik Poinar, Ph.D.

Hendrik Poinar is an evolutionary geneticist specializing in ancient DNA. Poinar first became known for extracting DNA sequences from ground sloth coprolites. He is currently director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is interested in the preservation and degradation of organic residues in the fossil record. He devises novel ways to extract these molecules and uses any remaining sequence information to address questions about the past. Recently, he has tried to identify the aetiological agent(s) of past pandemics (Black Death, Plague of Justinian), and to illuminate the evolutionary dynamics of these bacteria (and viruses) during both epidemic and non-epidemic cycles, as well as their reservoirs (hosts and environmental), and the underlying changes in both hosts and pathogen(s) that may explain their increased virulence and, in some cases, subsequent attenuation.