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Department of Biological Sciences

New publication by Gabriella Spatola and Dr. Tim Mousseau featured in Nature and the New York Times

In April 1986, two explosions at the nuclear power plant near the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl spewed radioactive material into the air, leading Soviet authorities to evacuate thousands of people from the surrounding area. Residents were forced to permanently evacuate, leaving behind their homes and, in some cases, their pets. Although officials attempted to exterminate abandoned and stray dogs to stop the spread of radioactivity in the days after the accident, a population of dogs somehow survived. In the first genetic study of any large mammal in the area around Chernobyl led by Dr. Tim Mousseau and his graduate student Gabriella Spatola, DNA collected from feral dogs that now live in Chernobyl confirms that they are descendants of the pets left behind after the 1986 nuclear disaster. The study, highlighted in both Nature and the New York Times, is the first step in a larger project aimed at determining how the dogs have adapted to survive in one of the most radioactive places on Earth. Researchers hope to use the knowledge gained to better understand the effects of long-term radiation exposure on human genetics and health. Congrats!

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