news aggregator

November 12, 2014

22:00
In the last two decades, models from evolutionary biology have made important contributions to demographic research on human fertility change. Within this evolutionary framework, two distinct traditions have focused on different processes of adaptation and time scales of change: (1) behavioral ecological perspectives have focused on how individual fertility decisions are shaped by local ecological circumstances, while (2) cultural evolutionary approaches have emphasized the role of socially transmitted information and changing social norms in shaping fertility behavior. While each tradition has made independent progress, research that integrates these approaches is necessary to improve our understanding of real fertility behavior, which results from a feedback between individual fertility decisions and social change. This approach requires combined attention to immediate ecological determinants of fertility decisions as well as the long-term processes that shape costs and benefits in a given environment. This workshop will bring together an international team of evolutionary behavioral scientists with complementary methodological and theoretical expertise in anthropology, psychology, and demography to develop (a) a synthetic article which proposes how these approaches can be integrated methodologically and theoretically, (b) an empirical article which applies our new synthetic framework to the study of fertility change in a particular fieldsite, demonstrating how the new methodological approach will work in practice and what we can learn through employing it, and (c) a multi-site grant proposal (UK, US, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Poland) aimed at integrating and empirically testing these diverse evolutionary models of human fertility change.
Source: NESCent

November 2, 2014

22:00
Human cultural diversity is expressed in myriad ways (from social and marital norms to languages and religious practices), but what factors shape this diversity? Dating back to Darwin, multiple disciplines have debated the degree to which cultural diversity patterns are influenced by different factors, including history, demographics, and ecology. Over recent years an emerging set of studies have showcased how phylogenetic comparative methods from evolutionary biology can help resolve these long-held debates and revolutionize the field of cultural evolution. Now the major barrier to advances lies in the location of necessary data, which are spread across multiple disparate sources in linguistics, biogeography and anthropology. To overcome this challenge we will create D-PLACE (a Database of Phylogenies of Languages for the study of Cultural Evolution), a publicly available and expandable web-portal that will map over 100 cultural features onto language phylogenies and link these to ecological and environmental variables, empowering a whole new line of investigation into the drivers of cultural change and patterns of cultural diversity. We will produce a paper to introduce D-PLACE and outline the many types of questions in comparative anthropology the database can answer. Finally, we will demonstrate the power of this new resource by using D-PLACE to examine two long-standing and fundamental questions from comparative anthropology: (i) What drives the diversity of incest taboos (i.e. how human societies regulate who can mate and marry)? (ii) Can we characterize recurrent “human niches”, or are societies just arbitrary bundles of cultural features?
Source: NESCent

October 22, 2014

22:00
Why are some genes imprinted, where the maternally or paternally inherited copies are preferentially expressed? Ever since the paradoxical pattern of imprinted gene expression was discovered evolutionary theories have strived to answer this question. Consequently, theories built on different fundamental assumptions have proliferated. Although these theories should make distinct and testable predictions, there have been few tests aimed at formally differentiating between these competing ideas. However, despite the general lack of such tests, the ‘kinship theory’, and especially its most prominent component, the ‘conflict hypothesis’, has emerged as the favored theory. This predominance is most notably reflected in the literature outside of evolutionary biology, where the conflict hypothesis is regularly used to interpret the functions and effects of imprinted genes. The conflict hypothesis rose to dominance because it appears to explain the effects of the first imprinted genes discovered. However, data from a broader array of genes in model species and emerging insights from non-model species appear to challenge whether one hypothesis adequately explains all occurrences of imprinting. We propose a working group composed of theoretical, computational and empirical biologists that will develop a set of formal predictions and devise tests to differentiate between competing models for the evolution of genomic imprinting. In doing so, we also expect to identify unexplored problems in evolutionary theory. Understanding why genes are imprinted also has important implications for evolutionary medicine since imprinted genes play a crucial role during pregnancy, in the manifestation of several behavioral disorders, and in some cancers.
Source: NESCent

October 15, 2014

22:00
Underlying the adaptive behavior of animals is a process by which individuals must make decisions based on functionally relevant categories: who is a suitable mate, social partner, host, or prey item? Who is a competitor or a predator? Despite the ubiquitous need for animals to find a suitable mate, sort out enemies from collaborators, and correctly identify food, we lack a unifying framework of evolutionary decision theory. Here, we propose a cross-disciplinary team to establish an integrative conceptual framework with testable hypotheses for studying decision-making in an evolutionary context. Leveraging expertise from research programs in evolution, neurobiology, behavioral ecology, and comparative psychology, we aim to address questions of whether and how available information is processed by similar or different algorithms to generate decisions across individuals, species, sensory modalities, and functional contexts. We identify directions for immediate analyses within a new framework, including the role of learning and memory in shaping animal decisions, and hypotheses related to the evolution of categorical-like perception in a complex environment. We propose to systematically synthesize the primary literature incorporating data from behavioral “choice” and “recognition” trials (e.g., mate choice, host choice, kin recognition, parasite rejection), in order to generate a large, multi-taxon, publicly available database that will provide a rich source of data for future analyses of comparative patterns in decision making algorithms. Ultimately, our aim is to bring together a diversity of perspectives spanning multiple levels of analysis in order to transform our understanding of decision-making in an evolutionary context.
Source: NESCent

October 6, 2014

22:00
Evolutionary and ecological immunology is a multi-disciplinary topic in evolutionary biology. Considerable empirical attention has been paid to identifying the costs of mounting an immune response, determining whether immunity is sexually dimorphic, and elucidating how immunity is related to the expression of sexually selected traits across a variety of taxa. There is, however, little consensus on whether current hypotheses and predictions are supported. It is unclear if general patterns exist within and differ across taxa. Our NESCent working group intends to address these issues in three ways: (1) perform taxonomically-broad, phylogenetic meta-analyses to assess the support for hypotheses and predictions and to identify alternative explanations and new hypothese; (2) modify existing life history models to derive quantitative predictions about the relationship between immune function and key life history traits; (3) construct an open-access, updatable online database to facilitate further analyses relevant to evolutionary immunology.
Source: NESCent

September 28, 2014

22:00
Baker’s Law (hereafter BL) states that self-compatible organisms are more likely to be successful colonizers after long-distance dispersal than self-incompatible organisms. This simple prediction draws a link between mating-system evolution and diverse fields of ecology and evolution such as dispersal biology and colonization, the evolution of range size and range limits, demography and Allee effect, and invasion biology. However, after >60 years of experimental research and theory development, the accumulated data yield varying, and often contradictory, support of BL. Our working group brings together a diverse array of researchers to assess predictions and assumptions of BL and elucidate ecological, evolutionary, and demographic parameters likely to determine the relationships between mating system, dispersal, and colonization success. To accomplish these goals we will: 1) Compile the voluminous literature on BL. 2) Link the BL data with two extensive databases gathered by prior NESCent support (seed germination and seed traits data; mating system data) and a NCEAS pollen limitation database. These expanded databases will include dispersal, range size, and life-history traits, thereby creating a powerful tool for testing various aspects of the relationship between mating-system and colonization success. 3) Employ macroevolutionary tools to map mating-system and dispersal traits onto the angiosperm phylogeny to assess evolutionary patterns and phylogenetically-corrected trait correlations. 4) Formalize BL using current population genetic theory and dispersal theory. Synthetic products of our working group should elucidate the links between dispersal and mating-system in colonization success, and will influence multiple fields of research in evolution for the foreseeable future.
Source: NESCent
22:00
Baker’s Law (hereafter BL) states that self-compatible organisms are more likely to be successful colonizers after long-distance dispersal than self-incompatible organisms. This simple prediction draws a link between mating-system evolution and diverse fields of ecology and evolution such as dispersal biology and colonization, the evolution of range size and range limits, demography and Allee effect, and invasion biology. However, after >60 years of experimental research and theory development, the accumulated data yield varying, and often contradictory, support of BL. Our working group brings together a diverse array of researchers to assess predictions and assumptions of BL and elucidate ecological, evolutionary, and demographic parameters likely to determine the relationships between mating system, dispersal, and colonization success. To accomplish these goals we will: 1) Compile the voluminous literature on BL. 2) Link the BL data with two extensive databases gathered by prior NESCent support (seed germination and seed traits data; mating system data) and a NCEAS pollen limitation database. These expanded databases will include dispersal, range size, and life-history traits, thereby creating a powerful tool for testing various aspects of the relationship between mating-system and colonization success. 3) Employ macroevolutionary tools to map mating-system and dispersal traits onto the angiosperm phylogeny to assess evolutionary patterns and phylogenetically-corrected trait correlations. 4) Formalize BL using current population genetic theory and dispersal theory. Synthetic products of our working group should elucidate the links between dispersal and mating-system in colonization success, and will influence multiple fields of research in evolution for the foreseeable future.
Source: NESCent

September 1, 2014

22:00
This working group proposal wishes to bring together software engineers and biologists that - instead of addressing a particular evolutionary question – are proposing to design and implement the software that is essential in evolutionary genomics so that questions can be asked in the first place. Evolutionary and ecological functional genomics (EFFG) is the study - with the aid of genomic technologies - of ecology and evolution of ‘non-model species’. With Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), the grand challenge in evolutionary genomic science is no longer the generation of data but deciphering them. The capability to convert sequence data to knowledge is, however, still locked in the discipline of bioinformatics because the data forms are not suitable for processing by research biologists. We have two solutions: 1) train domain experts in basic data processing informatics and 2) develop Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to view and analyse EEFG data. We require a single platform that can facilitate mining, analysis and annotation of comparative data for genetics, ecology and genomics. It should be easy to setup and easier to use. It should be modular, with contributions from multiple labs. Because informaticians and software engineers are better at implementing rather than designing biological applications, this proposed working group will bring together i) professional curators; ii) informaticians and iii) comparative genomicists with the scope to a) form and implement a roadmap for teaching/importing biocuration practices into the field of comparative genomics b) delivering user-friendly software for the analysis and curation of data relevant to EEFG.
Source: NESCent
22:00
This working group proposal wishes to bring together software engineers and biologists that - instead of addressing a particular evolutionary question – are proposing to design and implement the software that is essential in evolutionary genomics so that questions can be asked in the first place. Evolutionary and ecological functional genomics (EFFG) is the study - with the aid of genomic technologies - of ecology and evolution of ‘non-model species’. With Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), the grand challenge in evolutionary genomic science is no longer the generation of data but deciphering them. The capability to convert sequence data to knowledge is, however, still locked in the discipline of bioinformatics because the data forms are not suitable for processing by research biologists. We have two solutions: 1) train domain experts in basic data processing informatics and 2) develop Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to view and analyse EEFG data. We require a single platform that can facilitate mining, analysis and annotation of comparative data for genetics, ecology and genomics. It should be easy to setup and easier to use. It should be modular, with contributions from multiple labs. Because informaticians and software engineers are better at implementing rather than designing biological applications, this proposed working group will bring together i) professional curators; ii) informaticians and iii) comparative genomicists with the scope to a) form and implement a roadmap for teaching/importing biocuration practices into the field of comparative genomics b) delivering user-friendly software for the analysis and curation of data relevant to EEFG.
Source: NESCent

August 10, 2014

22:00
Human cultural diversity is expressed in myriad ways (from social and marital norms to languages and religious practices), but what factors shape this diversity? Dating back to Darwin, multiple disciplines have debated the degree to which cultural diversity patterns are influenced by different factors, including history, demographics, and ecology. Over recent years an emerging set of studies have showcased how phylogenetic comparative methods from evolutionary biology can help resolve these long-held debates and revolutionize the field of cultural evolution. Now the major barrier to advances lies in the location of necessary data, which are spread across multiple disparate sources in linguistics, biogeography and anthropology. To overcome this challenge we will create D-PLACE (a Database of Phylogenies of Languages for the study of Cultural Evolution), a publicly available and expandable web-portal that will map over 100 cultural features onto language phylogenies and link these to ecological and environmental variables, empowering a whole new line of investigation into the drivers of cultural change and patterns of cultural diversity. We will produce a paper to introduce D-PLACE and outline the many types of questions in comparative anthropology the database can answer. Finally, we will demonstrate the power of this new resource by using D-PLACE to examine two long-standing and fundamental questions from comparative anthropology: (i) What drives the diversity of incest taboos (i.e. how human societies regulate who can mate and marry)? (ii) Can we characterize recurrent “human niches”, or are societies just arbitrary bundles of cultural features?
Source: NESCent

July 23, 2014

22:00
In the last two decades, models from evolutionary biology have made important contributions to demographic research on human fertility change. Within this evolutionary framework, two distinct traditions have focused on different processes of adaptation and time scales of change: (1) behavioral ecological perspectives have focused on how individual fertility decisions are shaped by local ecological circumstances, while (2) cultural evolutionary approaches have emphasized the role of socially transmitted information and changing social norms in shaping fertility behavior. While each tradition has made independent progress, research that integrates these approaches is necessary to improve our understanding of real fertility behavior, which results from a feedback between individual fertility decisions and social change. This approach requires combined attention to immediate ecological determinants of fertility decisions as well as the long-term processes that shape costs and benefits in a given environment. This workshop will bring together an international team of evolutionary behavioral scientists with complementary methodological and theoretical expertise in anthropology, psychology, and demography to develop (a) a synthetic article which proposes how these approaches can be integrated methodologically and theoretically, (b) an empirical article which applies our new synthetic framework to the study of fertility change in a particular fieldsite, demonstrating how the new methodological approach will work in practice and what we can learn through employing it, and (c) a multi-site grant proposal (UK, US, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Poland) aimed at integrating and empirically testing these diverse evolutionary models of human fertility change.
Source: NESCent

July 13, 2014

22:00
Although the Indian and Pacific Oceans (hereafter Indo-Pacific) have long been recognized as containing the majority of marine biodiversity, their vastness poses substantial challenges for empirical research. Syntheses of published data, however, can expand the geographic scope of inference. We plan to examine the recent evolution of Indo-Pacific taxa by drawing upon all available population genetic data. We have two immediate research goals: 1) compile and analyze existing datasets for multiple species using consistent and uniform methods of analysis that represent the best current practice in population genetics to better determine oceanographic and geographic features as well as biological traits correlated with population structure. These results will inform our understanding of evolutionary processes in the region and provide information directly relevant to managers and conservation organizations. We will also: 2) conduct the first large scale multispecies investigation to infer the geography of speciation among Indo-Pacific taxa that incorporates population genetic inferences, thus testing predictions of competing biogeographic hypotheses using a novel approach. These research goals are underpinned by the creation of a database that would become publicly accessible to facilitate future studies. In addition, we plan to develop a virtual collaboration space that will support international collaborations in genetic-based research, training, and education throughout the region.
Source: NESCent

June 2, 2014

22:00
Evolutionary and ecological immunology is a multi-disciplinary topic in evolutionary biology. Considerable empirical attention has been paid to identifying the costs of mounting an immune response, determining whether immunity is sexually dimorphic, and elucidating how immunity is related to the expression of sexually selected traits across a variety of taxa. There is, however, little consensus on whether current hypotheses and predictions are supported. It is unclear if general patterns exist within and differ across taxa. Our NESCent working group intends to address these issues in three ways: (1) perform taxonomically-broad, phylogenetic meta-analyses to assess the support for hypotheses and predictions and to identify alternative explanations and new hypothese; (2) modify existing life history models to derive quantitative predictions about the relationship between immune function and key life history traits; (3) construct an open-access, updatable online database to facilitate further analyses relevant to evolutionary immunology.
Source: NESCent

May 27, 2014

22:00
This project aims to develop new protocols and resources to improve divergence-dating studies using fossil calibrations. Combining temporal data from the fossil record with branch length data from molecular phylogenetic trees represents a rapidly expanding approach to understanding biodiversity. Unfortunately, many fossils used to calibrate divergence dating analyses are not phylogenetically constrained and/or have incorrect ages assigned to them. Molecular systematists have largely led divergence dating studies, and the development of rigorous methods for using paleontological data has lagged behind the development of statistical methods for analyzing genetic sequences. Our working group seeks to rectify this problem by developing protocols, platforms, and incentives that will facilitate broader community involvement. A diverse international team of early career scientists, postdocs and students with broad expertise has been assembled to meet these goals. A first step will be to generate a protocol for reporting fossil calibration data. By outlining “best practices” for justifying and reporting calibrations, we can assure that fossil data are treated with the same rigor as molecular data. This work will serve as the foundation for an online database of vetted fossil calibrations. Incentivising community contribution is key to keeping the database active and up to date. We will achieve sustainability and raise visibility by pairing our database with a rapid publication outlet for fossil calibration data through partnership with an open access online journal, thereby providing publication credit for this community service.
Source: NESCent
22:00
Wednesday, 12:00 PM at NESCent, Ninth Street and Main Street, Erwin Mill Building, 2024 W. Main Street, Suite A200. For more information, call 919-668-4551
Source: NESCent

May 26, 2014

22:00
Why are some genes imprinted, where the maternally or paternally inherited copies are preferentially expressed? Ever since the paradoxical pattern of imprinted gene expression was discovered evolutionary theories have strived to answer this question. Consequently, theories built on different fundamental assumptions have proliferated. Although these theories should make distinct and testable predictions, there have been few tests aimed at formally differentiating between these competing ideas. However, despite the general lack of such tests, the ‘kinship theory’, and especially its most prominent component, the ‘conflict hypothesis’, has emerged as the favored theory. This predominance is most notably reflected in the literature outside of evolutionary biology, where the conflict hypothesis is regularly used to interpret the functions and effects of imprinted genes. The conflict hypothesis rose to dominance because it appears to explain the effects of the first imprinted genes discovered. However, data from a broader array of genes in model species and emerging insights from non-model species appear to challenge whether one hypothesis adequately explains all occurrences of imprinting. We propose a working group composed of theoretical, computational and empirical biologists that will develop a set of formal predictions and devise tests to differentiate between competing models for the evolution of genomic imprinting. In doing so, we also expect to identify unexplored problems in evolutionary theory. Understanding why genes are imprinted also has important implications for evolutionary medicine since imprinted genes play a crucial role during pregnancy, in the manifestation of several behavioral disorders, and in some cancers.
Source: NESCent

May 25, 2014

May 20, 2014

22:00
Wednesday, 12:00 PM at NESCent, Ninth Street and Main Street, Erwin Mill Building, 2024 W. Main Street, Suite A200. For more information, call 919-668-4551
Source: NESCent

May 18, 2014

22:00
This working group proposal wishes to bring together software engineers and biologists that - instead of addressing a particular evolutionary question – are proposing to design and implement the software that is essential in evolutionary genomics so that questions can be asked in the first place. Evolutionary and ecological functional genomics (EFFG) is the study - with the aid of genomic technologies - of ecology and evolution of ‘non-model species’. With Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), the grand challenge in evolutionary genomic science is no longer the generation of data but deciphering them. The capability to convert sequence data to knowledge is, however, still locked in the discipline of bioinformatics because the data forms are not suitable for processing by research biologists. We have two solutions: 1) train domain experts in basic data processing informatics and 2) develop Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to view and analyse EEFG data. We require a single platform that can facilitate mining, analysis and annotation of comparative data for genetics, ecology and genomics. It should be easy to setup and easier to use. It should be modular, with contributions from multiple labs. Because informaticians and software engineers are better at implementing rather than designing biological applications, this proposed working group will bring together i) professional curators; ii) informaticians and iii) comparative genomicists with the scope to a) form and implement a roadmap for teaching/importing biocuration practices into the field of comparative genomics b) delivering user-friendly software for the analysis and curation of data relevant to EEFG.
Source: NESCent

May 14, 2014

22:00
Evolutionary biology is a foundational and integrative science for medicine, but few physicians or medical researchers are familiar with its most relevant principles. While undergraduate students have increasing opportunities to learn about the interface of evolution, health, and disease, most premedical students have scant room for electives in their schedules, few premed prerequisite courses incorporate evolutionary thinking, and no medical school develops these competencies. The overarching goal of this Working Group is to lay the groundwork for future endeavors by providing testable models and pathways for infusing premedical and medical education with evolutionary thinking. This Working Group, an interdisciplinary, international, and intergenerational group of physicians, scientists, educators, and students, will 1) define core competencies in evolutionary biology for physicians and other health professionals; 2) investigate the ability of current curricula to prepare health professionals to meet these standards; 3) identify “teachable moments” that provide opportunities to integrate evolutionary principles into premedical and medical curricula; 4) design model curricula and learning experiences that can advance evolutionary education for health professionals; and 5) provide open access to these resources and disseminate them. The Working Group will be supported by an Advisory Committee of senior academic leaders and stakeholders. These efforts will not be sufficient in themselves, but they will establish the intellectual platform from which educational interventions on student learning, and scientific and clinical problem solving, can be developed and tested.
Source: NESCent