Thursday Talks - 17/12/2015

Foreign aid – a solution to the "refugee crisis" ?

Speaker: Bernhard Reinsberg (Department of Political Science, UZH)

The recent turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has caused unprecented refugee flows. While the conflict-ridden countries' neighboring countries are the major host countries, the European Union also witnessed high levels of migration, leading to a de-facto suspension of its treaties governing migration and asylum. Among the policies that are often mentioned to redeem the situation is foreign aid. The talk will explore the prospects of this policy option and also discuss the methodological challenges to evaluate the effectiveness of aid in this context.

Dental plaque: a window to our ancient past

Speaker: Rounak Feigelman (Institute of Molecular Life Sciences, UZH)

Reconstructing dietary and health histories of our ancestors has been of prime interest to many archeologists and anthropologists. This task can often be tiresome and inexact using the conventional methods. Recent microscopy investigations of dental calculus, a mineralized form of dental plaque shows presence of well preserved bacterial cells and food particles. To evaluate the extent of bimolecular preservation in dental calculus over centuries, samples from four medieval German individuals were investigated for the presence of endogenous ancient DNA using high throughput sequencing approaches. The metagenomic profiles of dental calculus were consistent with the human oral microbiota and clearly distinct from other human tissues and environmental samples. Presence of some oral pathogens was detected which helped in inferring dental infections that might have occurred during that period. The presence of dental calculus in the human archeological records offers great promise for deciphering the ancient lifestyle.