National Geographic Events

Speakers Bureau

Spencer Wells Population Geneticist

Picture of men in traditional garments in Chad

Photograph by David Evans

Photo: Spencer Wells
Photograph by Becky Hale

This scientist, author, and documentary filmmaker set an extraordinary goal for himself—using DNA from indigenous peoples, he aimed to document and create the first-ever map of human migration, showing how humans came to populate the planet after leaving the cradle of Africa some 60,000 years ago. Little has been known about our journey until now. A National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Spencer Wells also serves as Director of the Genographic Project—a partnership with IBM, the Waitt Family Foundation, and National Geographic, and the most ambitious research project in the Society’s 125-year history. The project is working to capture an invaluable genetic snapshot of humanity before modern-day influences erase it forever.

Wells’ journey of discovery began at the University of Texas, where he enrolled at 16, majored in biology, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa three years later. He then pursued his Ph.D. at Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral training at Stanford University’s School of Medicine with Luca Cavalli-Sforza, considered the “father of anthropological genetics.”

Presentation Topics

Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project
Join Wells on an epic journey that spans the globe, using DNA to trace the migration routes of our ancient ancestors and revealing the incredible tapestry of human diversity created along the way.

Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
Terrorism, pandemic disease, and global warming—what do these have in common? To find the answer we need to go back ten millennia, to the wheat fields of the Fertile Crescent and the rice paddies of southern China. It was then that our species made a radical shift in its way of life, progressing from a largely hunter-gatherer society, eking out a living within the constraints of the world around us, to controlling our food supply by domesticating animals and plants. Journey with Dr. Wells on a 10,000-year tour of human history as he charts the rise to power of Homo agriculturis and the effects this radical shift in lifestyle has had on our species, and speculates on where we might be headed in the future.

Learn More About Spencer:

The Genographic Project

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Profile

NGM: The Big Idea: Genography (August 2009)

Photo: Spencer Wells

Listen to Radio Interview With Spencer Wells

Boyd Matson Interviews Spencer for NG Weekend Radio Show

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Sam Abell
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William Albert Allard
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Casey Anderson
   Naturalist, TV Host Photo of Casey Anderson
Peter Athans
   Mountaineer, Filmmaker Photo of Peter Athans
Robert Ballard
   Underwater Explorer Photo of Robert Ballard
Brady Barr
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Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith
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Keith Bellows
   Editor in Chief, National Geographic Traveler Photo of Keith Bellows
Melina Bellows
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Don Belt
   Former Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, National Geographic Photo of Don Belt
Lee Berger
   Paleoanthropologist Photo of Lee Berger
Joel K. Bourne Jr.
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Kobie Boykins
   NASA Engineer Photo of Kobie Boykins
John Bredar
   Senior Executive Producer, National Geographic Specials Photo of John Bredar
Kenny Broad
   Cave Diver, Environmental Anthropologist Photo of Kenny Broad
Dan Buettner
   Author, Explorer Photo of Dan Buettner
Andy B. Casagrande
   National Geographic Cameraman Photo of Andy B. Casagrande
Barry Clifford
   Underwater Explorer Photo of Barry Clifford
Jodi Cobb
   Photographer Photo of Jodi Cobb
Michael Davie
   Filmmaker Photo of Michael Davie
Wade Davis
   Cultural Anthropologist, Author Photo of Wade Davis
Dennis Dimick
   Executive Editor, National Geographic Magazine Photo of Dennis Dimick
David Doubilet
   Underwater Photographer Photo of David Doubilet
Sylvia Earle
   Marine Biologist Photo of Sylvia Earle
Frans Lanting and Chris Eckstrom
   Photographers, Filmmakers, Writers Photo of Frans Lanting and Chris Eckstrom
Andrew Evans
   Travel Journalist Photo of Andrew Evans
Michael Fay
   Conservationist, Biologist Photo of Michael Fay
Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher
   Photographers, Writers Photo of Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher
John Francis
   Planetwalker, Conservationist Photo of John Francis
Jerry Glover
   Agricultural Ecologist Photo of Jerry Glover
Annie Griffiths
   Photographer Photo of Annie Griffiths
Kevin Hand
   Planetary Scientist and Astrobiologist Photo of Kevin Hand
Zahi Hawass
   Archaeologist Photo of Zahi Hawass
Fred Hiebert
   Archaeologist Photo of Fred Hiebert
Peter Hillary
   Mountaineer, Author Photo of Peter Hillary
Nizar Ibrahim
   Paleontologist Photo of Nizar Ibrahim
Donald Johanson
   Paleoanthropologist Photo of Donald Johanson
Beverly & Dereck Joubert
   Photographers, Filmmakers, Naturalists Photo of Beverly & Dereck Joubert
Karen Kasmauski
   Photographer Photo of Karen Kasmauski
Mattias Klum
   Photographer, Filmmaker, Conservationist Photo of Mattias Klum
Emory Kristof
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Tim Laman
   Field Biologist, Wildlife Photojournalist Photo of Tim Laman
Chris Eckstrom and Frans Lanting
   Photographers, Filmmakers, Writers Photo of Chris Eckstrom and Frans Lanting
Albert Yu-Min Lin
   Research Scientist and Engineer Photo of Albert Yu-Min Lin
Greg Marshall
   Biologist, Inventor, Filmmaker Photo of Greg Marshall
Boyd Matson
   Journalist, Adventurer Photo of Boyd Matson
Mireya Mayor
   Primatologist Photo of Mireya Mayor
Steve McCurry
   Photographer Photo of Steve McCurry
Kim McKay
   Environmentalist, Author Photo of Kim McKay
Mark Moffett
   Ecologist, Photographer Photo of Mark Moffett
Nalini Nadkarni
   Forest Ecologist Photo of Nalini Nadkarni
Cathy Newman
   National Geographic Senior Writer, Author Photo of Cathy Newman
Michael "Nick" Nichols
   Photographer, Conservationist Photo of Michael "Nick" Nichols
Paul Nicklen
   Photographer, Biologist Photo of Paul Nicklen
Børge Ousland
   Polar Explorer Photo of Børge Ousland
Bob Poole
   National Geographic Cameraman Photo of Bob Poole
Victoria Pope
   Deputy Editor, National Geographic Magazine Photo of Victoria Pope
Chad Pregracke
   Environmentalist Photo of Chad Pregracke
Reza
   Photojournalist and Humanitarian Photo of  Reza
Jim Richardson
   Photographer Photo of Jim Richardson
Enric Sala
   Marine Ecologist Photo of Enric Sala
Joel Sartore
   Photographer, National Geographic Fellow Photo of Joel Sartore
Barton Seaver
   Chef, Conservationist Photo of Barton Seaver
Paul Sereno
   Paleontologist Photo of Paul Sereno
Brian Skerry
   Underwater Photographer Photo of Brian Skerry
Bryan Smith
   Adventure Filmmaker Photo of Bryan Smith
Will Steger
   Polar Explorer Photo of Will Steger
Maria Stenzel
   Photographer Photo of Maria Stenzel
Ed Viesturs
   Mountaineer Photo of Ed Viesturs
Spencer Wells
   Population Geneticist Photo of Spencer Wells
Rory Wilson
   Aquatic Biologist Photo of Rory Wilson
Andrew Zolli
   Futurist Photo of Andrew Zolli

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