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In this talk Professor Leslie will present some of the findings from the People of the British Isles project, which was published in Nature in March 2015 (and featured on the cover), and some more recent work following on from this study. In particular he will show that using newly developed statistical techniques one can uncover subtle genetic differences between people from different regions at a hitherto unprecedented level of detail. For example, in the UK one can separate the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall, or two islands of Orkney, using only genetic information. He will then show how these genetic differences reflect current historical and archaeological knowledge, as well as providing new insights into the historical make-up of the British population, and the movement of people from Europe into the British Isles.
This is the first detailed analysis of very fine-scale genetic differences and their origin in a population of very similar humans. The key to the findings of this study is the careful sampling strategy and an approach to statistical analysis that accounts for the correlation structure of the genome. The methods developed are readily extended to analyses in other populations and potential applications of these methods to populations in Oceania will be briefly discussed. The talk will give a flavour of the statistical techniques but will focus on the findings of the work and will require no specialist statistical knowledge.