Jessica Metcalf is an evolutionary biologist who is fascinated by old things. At the core of her research is the use of ancient DNA methods to directly sample genes from the past to answer questions in ecology, evolution, conservation, forensics and history. Whether only weeks old, from historic times or the late Pleistocene, DNA preserved in bone, teeth, hair, tissue, coprolites, plant material and soil can solve mysteries about the past.
Jessica has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Georgia (2000) and a doctorate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Colorado (2007). Jessica was trained in ancient DNA techniques during her postdoctoral research at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA in Adelaide, Australia. She joined Rob Knight's lab in 2011 to investigate the potential for microbes to help us understand the past. She studies the ancestral human gut microbiome by studying microbial DNA preserved in ancient human fecal material. Jessica also studies the role of microbes in decomposition, which has led to several fascinating findings that are important for forensic science.