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Reaching its easternmost extent to our east in Easter Island less than one thousand years ago, the settlement of the remote Pacific islands represents a final chapter in the dispersal of humans across the globe. Though it occurred relatively recently, much remains unknown about the precise history of this unprecedented feat of humankind, including the order of islands settled, the timing of those settlements, and the various continental origins of the settlers. Building on the prior discoveries of archeologists, linguists, and historians, we add our own details to this rich research tradition from a genetic perspective. I will highlight the computational methods that I have employed to unravelling these questions using dense genome-wide SNP array data, and I will also address the heavily debated suggestion that Native Americans could have played a role in the ancient population history of Easter Island.
Alex is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Biomedical Data Science, where his research focuses on applying computational methods to problems in human population genetics. He is a PhD graduate of Stanford's Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering, where he teaches machine learning. Prior to his PhD at Stanford, he worked in superconducting computing research at Northrop Grumman. He has a BA from Harvard in Chemistry and Physics and an MPhil in Computational Biology from the University of Cambridge.