Roughly 10 principal scientists are working with the Genographic Project in remote areas of Australia, China, Russia and other regions to collect what's expected to be the largest sample of human DNA ever assembled, as part of an effort to study and chart how humans populated the Earth.
In recent weeks, software giant IBM has donated new computers and custom software to the investigators in an effort to make the data-gathering easier and communication a little smoother.
"This is a giant leap forward for field expeditions everywhere," said Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project and an explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society, which, along with IBM, is backing the study.
"IBM is helping to greatly advance and expedite quality sampling while providing our project investigators peace of mind that the information they are gathering is securely stored and protected."
The software and new T42 IBM Thinkpads, with biometrical security fingerprint technology, will allow the scientists to input DNA samples while they're in the field, rather than having to return to a central office. The software contains customized language fields and contextual scientific data to help minimize the number of errors that scientists might make while entering data, which could ultimately spoil a sample population.
The software will also let the researchers chat instantly with their peers or retrieve real-time answers from an automated scientific database. Coming soon in the fall, scientists will be able to post blogs on their work, which will be reposted on the Genographic Project's Web site.
The Genographic Project launched in April and has already raised more than $1 million in funding from more than 62,000 people who have bought the DNA sample kits. The funds are being used to rebuild roads, improve water systems and provide health care to indigenous communities throughout the world. The project is set to last five years.