Guschanski lab: News

Long time without updates! A number of things have happened. Here is quick run-through of the most important events. 

The research group will be moving most of its scientific activities to the University of Edinburgh. More updates to come soon. 

We have said goodbye to dear members of the group: Jaelle Brealey moved to Trondheim to work on salmon, Maya Gadhvi returned to UK to complete her degree, Jiancheng Su will soon be leaving us as well. 

On the bright side, we are welcoming new group members.

Axel Jensen has started his PhD on population and speciation genomics in primates. Adrian Forsythe has joined from Canada to do a postdoc project on mammalian oral microbiome using dental calculus. Markella Moraitou has started a long MSc project on the evolution of the oral microbiome in great apes. 

Katja has been elected a councillor of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (  

November 2019

Some more good news before the year ends: We received support from the Swedish Research Council FORMAS, the Carl Tryggers Foundation and the Fysiografiska Foundation in support of our research! We will be recruiting a postdoc and possibly a PhD student to join the group in 2020. 

September 2019

September was loaded with good news: 

Tom has first nailed his thesis (a wonderful Swedish tradition, note the hammer in his hand, which is not meant for me!) and then successfully defended his PhD! We are all so happy about Tom’s achievements and so extremely proud of him! The downside of course is that now he has to move on and has already started a postdoc position in Stockholm with Love Dalén. 

The paper describing the evolutionary history of the mysterious Dryas monkey has been published in Molecular Biology and Evolution:

Two new students have joined the group: Maya Gadhvi is doing her placement with us and Jiancheng Su is a visiting researcher in the group. Both will be staying with us for a year and work on different aspects of population genetics, conservation and possibly speciation. 

Unfortunately, we also had to say goodbye to some of our wonderful students: Katia, Alice and Zach have finished their MEME Master program and Catu has returned to Argentina and her work at the NGO after being with us on a research visit for almost a year. They all are dearly missed!

Juli-August 2019

This was a busy conference season. Henrique and Jaelle presented their work on dental calculus microbiome at the SMBE. Henrique received a travel award to support his first ever conference visit, shown here with his great poster.  

Jaelle gave a fantastic presentation.

In August, Katia, Zach, Catu and Katja travelled to Finland for the ESEB meeting. Catu has presented her work on the mysterious Dryas monkey. 

June 2019

Another great lab hike, even though the weather could have been a bit nicer. Still, we had lots of fun (and food)! In the photo, from left to right: Jaelle, Alice, Katja, Katia, Zach, Tom, Edvin and Henrique.

April 2019

Three new people have joined the group! Welcome to Katia, Alice and Zach!

Our paper on how gorillas interact with their dead, published in PeerJ came out and hit the nerve of media and the general public.

The members of the Chimanuka group inspecting the body of a dead silverback

Not only did we receive international coverage (see a few links below), but we also inspired one of the readers to compose a poem. This work is based on extremely rare observations and includes three independent instances of mountain and Grauer’s gorillas reacting to the death of their group members and an extragroup male. Katja happened to be in the right place at the right time during her trip to the DRC in 2016 and has witnessed the latter event. Amy Porter, the lead of the paper, has produced amazingly detailed observations and recordings of this event. Check out the videos associated with two of the rare encounters:

A juvenile mountain gorilla interacting with his dead mother, even attempting to suckle despite being already weaned.

Grauer’s gorillas inspecting the body of a dead silverback. The sequence ends with the dominant silverback Chimanuka hitting and rolling the body. 

Some of the media coverage:

Interview with Swedish Radio (Vetenskapsradion).

Henrique receives the SMBE undergrad travel award and will be presenting his work on dental calculus in Manchester. His first conference! We all are super happy for him!

Catu (Catalina) and Tom will be presenting their work at the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) in Kuala Lumpur. Catu was selected for a speed talk on our Dryas monkey project and received a travel award! 

March 2019

Tom’s index hopping paper is published in Molecular Ecology Resources. Not only do we directly quantify index hopping rates but we also show the impact of even low index hopping of <1% for population genomics inferences. Beware of index hopping!

Katja is an approved docent now, for whatever it’s worth.

Katja travels to Mexico as part of the renown Frontiers in Genomics Program at UNAM. Smart, curious and open-minded students, amazing food, and a beautiful country! What could be better? 

February 2019

Jaelle presenting her first results on the dental calculus project at the Oikos meeting!

January 2019

Two new(ish) lab members joined out group. 

Yuhong Li is a Bachelor student at Uppsala University via Shandong University in China. Her exceptional drive and motivation will certainly lead to great results in her Bachelor project!

Tuuli Larva has rejoined our group after a break and will continue her project on gorilla genetic diversity. We are looking forward to exciting results!

Katja has given her Docent lecture on “Time travel for animal conservation” and is now awaiting the decision by the Docent committee. 

December 2018

Our work on the genomic consequences of recent population decline in eastern gorillas has now been published in Current Biology ( This collaborative project between our group and Love Dalén at Natural History Museum in Stockholm has received quite a bit of media coverage. Here are a few of my favourite pieces: 



In Russian

We went out on a great lab outing to celebrate the winter season. Lots of fun in snow-covered Swedish forests with Catu, Henrique, Tom, Jaelle and Thijs, building a snowman who turn out to look very much like Albert Einstein.

November 2018

Much has happened since the last update, so here is a short re-cap:
- Thijs Hofstede has joined our lab as Bachelor student intern to get into the depth of work in the ancient DNA lab. He is our saviour and the only reason we are on track with data production for the SciLifeLab National Sequencing Projects!
- Joint success for Jaelle Brealey and our former MEME Master student Rebecca Hooper! Their great work on the skin microbiome of killer whales has been published in Molecular Ecology. 

- Conference season was very successful for our group. Both Tom and Riana got accepted for the highly selective presentations of a talk and a poster, respectively, at the ESEB 2018 in Montpellier and Jaelle presented her work at the IGC Symposium for Microbial Eco-evolutionary dynamics in Lisbon. 

August 2018

We are happy to welcome two new members of our group, Catu and Henrique. Catu joins us as a visiting researcher to run a computational project on the speciation of guenons. Henrique will dive into the challenging world of non-human dental calculus. 

May 2018

Our study on historical changes in Grauer’s gorilla mitochondrial diversity is published in Scientific Reports. We show that the loss of peripheral populations, not population decline per se, is causing the reduction in mitochondrial genetic diversity in this critically endangered gorilla taxon. 

Two members of the Guschanski Lab will be presenting at ESEB 2018 in Montpellier. Tom will give a talk on his large-scale genomic study of mutational load in vertebrates and Riana Minocher will present a poster of her research project on Grauer’s gorilla gut microbiome.

January 2018

First first-author paper by Pauline Baas is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology! This work is based on Pauline’s Master project on Grauer’s gorilla genetic diversity and population structure. Really happy that all the hard work that Pauline put into this project has payed of. 

Warm welcome to Wenbo, who joins us for his research training on dental calculus analysis. 

December 2017
Our lab receives one of the SciLifeLab National Biodiversity Project grants. Great sequencing ahead!

August 2017
Jaelle Brealey joins our group as our first ever postdoc! Jaelle will be studying how climatic and demographic factors are reflected in the oral microbiome of mammals.

July 2017
Tom presents our study on temporal changes in eastern gorilla genetic diversity at the SMBE 2017!

June 2017
Lab hike of Guschanski lab. A fantastic group of people has joined us over this summer and many cool projects are now underway. Thus, it was time to get out into the nature and enjoy the beautiful Swedish summer (as long as it lasts)!

March 2017
We are happy to welcome Beki Hooper and Riana Minocher as our newest group members. Both will be working on microbial communities in social animals. Beki, co-supervised with Andy Foote (Bangor University), will explore the skin microbial profiles of killer whales. Riana’s project focuses on evaluating social, seasonal and ecological impacts on Grauer’s gorilla gut microbiome. Now we are finally complete for this semester!

February 2017
Happy to welcome our newest group member, Peter Niehoff. Peter will be working on the understudied Grauer’s gorillas, genetically characterising an new population of these magnificent animals. 

Welcome to Kevin Mulder, who joined us for a 5-months-long internship and will be involved in all our ongoing wet-lab-based projects. 

January 2017
We are very excited to welcome our two new students to the lab. Kristaps Bebris will be doing his Master project with us, helping us to see if DNA capture data can be used for bacterial community composition analyses. Tuuli Larva is evaluating fecal extraction protocols for their suitability for metagenomics studies. 

November 2016
We received grants from the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and The Royal Physiographic Society of Lund! 

Photo: Per Alström

October 2016
Katja gives a talk at the biological colloquium at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover. 

September 2016
Uppsala PhD students have hosted the 22nd European Meeting of PhD Students in Evolutionary Biology EMPSEB22 on Gotland this year and Katja was invited as a speaker. It was great fun to exchange with everybody and to talk about our current primate work.

September 2016
Together with Elisabeth Bolund and David Berger, Katja has organised the Ecology of Genome Evolution Symposium at Uppsala University. It provided a stimulating forum for exchange between external and local speakers and students, and ended with an outdoor panel discussion in the late summer sunshine.

August 2016
Tom has presented the first results of his PhD at the Joint meeting of the International Primatological Society and the American Society of Primatologists (IPS/ASP) in Chicago.


July 2016
Katja travels to DR Congo to collect samples from the Kahuzi-Biega population of Grauer’s gorillas. 

June 2016
Tom and Katja travel to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels to provide training in ancient DNA technique at the workshop of the “Belgian Network for DNA Barcoding” and sampling gorillas and chimpanzees at RMCA Tervuren.

Tom and Katja sampling gorillas and chimpanzees at RMCA Tervuren

May 2016
Katja invited to give a talk at the SMBE satellite meeting “Genetics and Evolution of Admixed Populations” in San Antonio, Texas.

March 2016
Welcome to Pauline Baas, our most recent Master student from the Esitpa Engineering school, France! Pauline will be working on population genetics of Grauer’s gorillas, putting our sampled populations in a wider phylogeographical context.