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Requests for Proposals

Ancient DNA

An excavation expedition team member discovers teeth and other bone fragments of an undetermined hominid.

Photograph by Elliot Ross / National Geographic

Recent advances in the extraction and analysis of genetic material from human and hominin remains have fundamentally changed our understanding of who we are and where we come from.  The National Geographic Society, creator of The Genographic Project, is looking to build on its legacy of supporting studies of our history and evolution by advancing the field of ancient DNA. To do so, National Geographic has launched a Request for Proposals (RFP) in ancient DNA. The goal of this RFP is to increase the capacity, accessibility and understanding of DNA for archaeologists, anthropologists and museum curators. Through grant-giving, National Geographic will enable these researchers to address specific questions about past and present human diversity, ancient populations and human migration, and further work with them to employ the tools of DNA analysis and generate exciting new data from skeletal samples. In order to do so, National Geographic  is collaborating with DNA research centers, including the Reich Lab at Harvard Medical School led by geneticist Professor David Reich, one of the world’s leaders in ancient DNA technology.


In year one (2018-2019), we will focus grant-giving on growing our understanding of the Peopling of the Americas by targeting projects in the New World, particularly Latin America. (Projects from other parts of the world are also welcomed through our Exploration Grants program). Today, the genomes of most groups living in the Americas reflect both deep ancestral ties to the region’s earliest settlers and the historic legacy of newer migratory groups from Europe, Africa and Asia.  Yet, just over 500 years ago, all inhabitants of the Americas were descended from peoples that migrated from Asia thousands of years earlier. Once in the New World, these early Americans moved and diversified into distinct cultural, linguistic and genetic groups, adapting to and settling every region from Alaska to Patagonia.


Examples of research questions that can be addressed:

  • What routes did the earliest Americans take as they spread south from North America?
  • What can ancient DNA tell us about the civilizations of Central and South America?
  • What are the origins of evolutionarily adaptive genes in the DNA pool of Americans?
  • What can we learn about lesser-known migrations, such as routes into eastern North America, the Amazon rainforest and the Caribbean islands?


In year two (2019-2020), we will focus on samples from the Middle East and Africa, followed by South and Central Asia (2020-2021), East and Southeast Asia (2021-2022), and Australia and Oceania (2022-2023).

The RFP applicants are expected to work in collaboration with local groups and communities to secure access and permissions to work on skeletal samples, and to follow strict ethical processes in the collection of skeletal material and dissemination of results. Project budgets should include travel to/from the Reich Lab in Boston, Mass., for the applicant and possibly technicians as well as sample preparation and permit acquisitions. Our laboratory partners will offset the lab processing costs of the project.

Typical proposal requests should be between US $5,000 and $15,000; however, applicants may request up to $20,000 and may use awarded funds over one or two years. Up to 20 percent of the total can be used as a stipend for team members. (Please see the Preparing Your Proposal page for budget eligibility and other budgetary guidance). Applicants from non-U.S. institutions are encouraged to apply.

When applying for this RFP, please select Human Journey in the Lens drop-down menu and Research as Primary Focus on the Project Description tab of the application.

Sample Applications

Click below to view and download a sample application for the primary project focus supported by the Ancient DNA RFP. 


Grant applications are reviewed quarterly.
The next application deadline is October 3, 2018.

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