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Toomas Kivisild

Professor of Human Evolutionary Genetics, Department of Human Genetics, KU Leuven, Belgium and Institute of Genomics, University of Tartu, Estonia

Toomas Kivisild graduated with PhD in Genetics, from University of Tartu, Estonia, in 2000. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University in 2002 he worked at Estonian Biocentre (since 2003), and the Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Tartu (2005-6). Thereafter, he led research on human evolutionary genetics at the University of Cambridge (2006-2018) and from 2018 in the Department of Human Genetics at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. His research interests have included human evolution and evolutionary population genetics, with a particular focus on questions relating global genetic population structure with evolutionary processes such as selection, drift, migration and admixture.

Impact of medieval demography and plague pandemics on the genetic make up of Northern Europe

Genetic differences between human populations in Europe are relatively minor, yet important enough to appear as significant confounders for complex trait analyses. The regional differences, which extend to patterns of local sub-regional population structure, can be revealed in large present-day cohorts with allele frequency and IBD-based methods. While some broader regional patterns have been linked with massive prehistoric population movements, or in case of some individual traits with recent selective sweeps, studies of ancient genomes are only just starting to illuminate to what extent demographic events in the last two millennia, including pandemics, wars and famines have contributed to the formation of present-day population structure in Europe. This presentation will assess comparatively the impact of plague pandemics and migration on population structure formation in North Europe with aDNA evidence from the UK, Norway, Estonia, and Belgium, considering critically the limitations and caveats for inference of selection.