Spencer Wells is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, where he leads the Genographic Project.

Photograph by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic
  • On April 13, 2005, the National Geographic Society launched the Genographic Project. Founded by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells, the Genographic Project is a nonprofit research project aimed at answering questions about human population and migration. Where did we come from? Who did we come from? How did we get where we are? Who are we?
    Anyone in the world can participate in the Genographic Project—one of its major components is gathering DNA samples from indigenous and traditional peoples as well as the general public. Using the DNA from a simple cheek swab and a complex computer analysis, the Genographic Project is able to create the world’s largest migration map, showing how humans populated the planet.
    The result of this project is a global database of genetic and anthropological data, as well as a resource for scientific research communities. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    anthropology Noun

    science of the origin, development, and culture of human beings.

    Encyclopedic Entry: anthropology
    component Noun


    database Noun

    a collection of information for analysis and interpretation.

    DNA Noun

    (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule in every living organism that contains specific genetic information on that organism.

    Explorer-in-Residence Noun

    pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.

    genetic Adjective

    having to do with genes, inherited characteristics or heredity.

    Genographic Project Noun

    National Geographic project that uses genealogy to trace the migratory history of the human species.

    indigenous Adjective

    characteristic to or of a specific place.

    Encyclopedic Entry: indigenous
    migration Noun

    movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

    National Geographic Society Noun

    (1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

    nonprofit organization Noun

    business that uses surplus funds to pursue its goals, not to make money.

    public Noun

    people of a community.

    research Noun

    scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.