As a child Hendrik Poinar never imagined that the insects his father kept around the house, extinct and preserved in amber, could someday be brought to life. Well that's exactly what Poinar has devoted his career to doing. Today he is a molecular evolutionary geneticist and biological anthropologist at McMaster University in Ontario, where he is the principal investigator at the Ancient DNA Centre. Poinar's focus is on extracting and preserving DNA from paleontological remains -- precisely what he thought impossible as a kid.
And Poinar's newest project is much, much bigger than those insects from his childhood: He wants to bring back the woolly mammoth. In 2006 he and his team started working on sequencing the mammoth genome, based on DNA extracted from well-preserved remains found in Yukon and Siberia. With the mapping nearly complete, Poinar will next turn to engineering an animal very closely resembling the woolly mammoth.