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Dr. Todd Little-Siebold, "The Lost Ancestors: Apples, History and DNA"

Dr. Todd Little-Siebold
Dr. Todd Little-Siebold
College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine
101 LeConte Hall

Join historian turned genetic detective Todd Little-Siebold for a talk on the use of traditional techniques of historical research alongside genomic profiling to historic mysteries about the introduction of European fruit crops to North America.  In Georgia the iconic peach became a central crop for native communities long before Europeans settled. Apples arrived in America apparently as early as the 1530s  Through genetic analysis to recreate the family tree of all known apples researchers have discovered that almost all early American apples have French parentage. Why is this?  It is an unexpected empirical reality that requires explanation. As we try to reconstruct the introduction of European food crops, especially fruit trees, it is fascinating to explore the line between that which is documented in the genome of apples (the archive of DNA) and the earliest histories of contact, exchange and eventually settlement.  Who were the French grandparents and what lines of historical research could shed light on their arrival in the New World?"

Todd Little-Siebold is a Professor of History at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.   Trained as a historian of nineteenth-century Guatemala at Tulane University in New Orleans, he has spent the last twenty-five years as the only full-time historian at the College.  He teaches Latin American History, Environmental History (both terrestrial and marine), Community-based research, Native American History and the History of Agriculture.  Over the last fifteen years he has focused his research on the history of agriculture as part of an effort to track down, document, identify and conserve Maine’s oldest heirloom apples.  He helped found the Maine Heritage Orchard in 2014, and more recently has worked on incorporating the use genomic profiling to establish the identity and pedigree of the apples he and his collaborators are finding on the landscape.  This has led to a fascinating new “archive” of information about the historic varieties that compensates for the loss of local knowledge about these rare varieties.  Meshing molecular techniques with traditional archival and community-based work has revealed secrets lost in time.  Geneticists alone can only identify the patterns of the trees' DNA, so the collaboration between historians and scientific researchers has become a necessity as this work has advanced to connect the dots.

Free and open to the public.


This is an FYO event.

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