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  • 1 - Open symposium
    Organizers: Local Organizing Committee
  • 2 - Editor symposium
    Organizers: Brandon Stuart Gaut, Claudia Russo, Laura Katz, Adam Eyre-Walker
  • 3 - The dark side of introgression
    Organizers: Michael Matschiner, Julia MI Barth Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Molly Schumer: The evolutionary origin of hybrid incompatibilities: insights from swordtail fish James Mallet: Extraordinary case of hybrid speciation and ongoing introgression in the Amazon Description or the symposium: One of the most surprising revelations brought about by the ongoing revolution in genome sequencing is the high frequency of interspecific hybridization identified in nearly all genomic studies that explicitly test for it. This new insight has already begun to change our understanding of the speciation process and it has been argued that hybridization and the genetic exchange of adaptive variation — adaptive introgression — can promote speciation and thus be responsible for a great share of biodiversity. However, while the idea of introgression-linked speciation is receiving increasing support from case studies and experiments, its more intuitive antithesis has so far remained poorly addressed: Shouldn’t high frequencies of hybridization and backcrossing more commonly lead to the merging of two species into one — and thus a net loss of biodiversity — due to genome homogenization? And if it doesn’t, how do species remain separate despite hybridization and backcrossing? In this symposium, we bring together empirical case studies and theoretical investigations to shed light on this dark side of introgression; by examining the occurrence of introgression-linked species merging and the mechanisms maintaining species identities in the face of gene flow, including hybrid decay, cyto-nuclear incompatibilities, and purging of introgressed alleles.
  • 4 - Origins, evolution and ecology of microbial hopeful monsters
    Organizers: Ben Pascoe, Cheryl Andam Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Gregorio Iraola: Campylobacter fetus: hopefully jumping through hosts and continents Lucy Weiner: Predicting the emergence of hopeful monsters from the dynamics of genetic elements Description or the symposium: In 1933, the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt introduced the concept of “hopeful monsters” to describe organisms that undergo radical changes in phenotypes resulting from large-effect mutations. Hopeful monsters reflect great leaps of adaptation (i.e., saltational evolution) and play an important role in the origin of key innovations in the Tree of Life. Microbes that acquire long tracts of exogenous DNA, especially from distantly related taxa, through large-scale horizontal gene transfer (HGT) events may also be considered as hopeful monsters. These microbes are particularly intriguing because unpredictable phenotypes can arise, including the means to exploit a new host or habitat, multidrug resistance or enhanced virulence potential. Hopeful monsters have been identified in recent population genomic studies of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Vibrio anguillarum. Recent work to trace the origins of microbial hopeful monsters has focused on the long-term evolutionary trajectory and phenotypic characteristics of these organisms. We also feature recent studies characterizing the genetic background which favor the emergence of hopeful monsters and aim to untangle the web of genetic linkage which selects against these large-scale recombination events. In this symposium, we will highlight the origins of microbial hopeful monsters, large-scale HGT events, their influence on rates of microbial speciation, and the ecological consequences in both clinical and environmental settings. We will also highlight non-canonical mechanisms of HGT, introgression, and hybridization between microbial species.
  • 5 - New frontiers in conservation genomics
    Organizers: Mirte Bosse, Hernan Morales, Claudia Fontsere, Lara Urban Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Katerina Guschanski: Metagenomics of population declines in Scandinavian Brown Bears Moises Exposito-Alonso: The population genetics of species range contraction in the Anthropocene Description or the symposium: The field of conservation biology was one of the early adopters of genomic technologies, but only recently, reducing costs of sequencing and increasing computer power have catalyzed the widespread uptake of genomic tools for conservation purposes. Conservation genomics is now an established research discipline that is rapidly expanding. Recent developments in computer sciences and integrating insights from other fields into the conservation genomics toolbox are pushing the frontiers of the field. We invite contributions that are part of this exciting future, and show the application of novel approaches in conservation, such as the use of artificial intelligence to understand genomic signatures, exploiting eDNA data, the use of time-series data, uncovering interactions between hosts and their microbiota, fitness studies, and genomic simulations. We would like to highlight the importance of assessing the evolutionary footprint of a species’ population decline through high-quality omics tools (e.g., genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, metagenomics). Our central aim is to showcase research on evolutionary genomic inferences that can comprehensively inform a species’ risk of extinction and conservation assessment.
  • 6 - Molecular evolutionary patterns under sex-dependent selection and sexual conflict
    Organizers: Jose Ranz, Alberto Civetta Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Manyuan Long: Sexual conflict drive in new gene evolution Max Reuter: Sexually antagonistic genetic variation in Drosophila melanogaster Description or the symposium: Sexual reproduction sets the ground for traits to evolve in a sex-dependent or limited manner, a process that is driven by sex-dependent (either sexual or natural) selection, sometimes resulting into opposed benefits for males and females, i.e. sexual conflict. This is possible because of an underlying sex-specific trait architecture that relies on genetic factors or mutations with sex-biased effects, ultimately affecting the functional properties of many genes across the genome. These properties typically include different expression attributes of genes and networks, having the potential to shape trait characteristics and impact main fitness components. As a result, sexual dimorphism is pervasive across multiple levels of biological organization and taxa. Importantly, recent technical and analytical advances are facilitating a more precise identification of molecular signatures associated with the action of sex-dependent selection and conflict, as well as the impact of intra and interlocus sexual conflict on the evolution of sex-specific adaptations and constrains on traits optima. In this symposium, we are bringing together recent work that broadly addresses molecular evolutionary patterns under sex-dependent selection and sexual conflict. Among other topics, we examine how sex-biased effects manifest at the molecular level and affect the phenotype, involving work from whole-genome scale expression patterns, to functional networks properties, to the evolution of young genes that are undergoing functional specialization.
  • 7 - Computational evolutionary genomics in the era of machine learning
    Organizers: Daniel Schrider, Andrew Kern Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Sohini Ramachandran: Interpretable models for complex trait architecture via learning from population genetic datasets Yun Song: Advances in learning complex evolutionary constraints and predicting variant effects Description or the symposium: As genomic datasets grow in size empiricists are faced with the daunting task of making sense of a flood of information. To keep pace with this explosion in data, computational methodologies are being rapidly developed to best utilize genomic sequence data from hundreds to tens of thousands of individuals for the purposes of evolutionary genetic inference. Increasingly computational biology is turning towards machine learning, including powerful methods for high-dimensional data analysis that fall under the umbrella of deep learning, to extract information from modern genomic datasets. This symposium will highlight recent methodological advances in evolutionary and population genomics enabled by machine learning as well as important findings produced by applying these techniques to empirical data.
  • 8 - Mitochondria across biodiversity: comparative genomics as a tool to unravel mitochondrial biology and evolution
    Organizers: Liliana Milani, Fabrizio Ghiselli Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Daniel Sloan: Contrasting mechanisms of mitochondrial DNA repair and transmission bottlenecks across eukaryotes Sophie Breton: The mitochondria-derived alternative proteome Description or the symposium: Eukaryotes originated by endosymbiosis and evolved in a breath-taking variety of organisms, and such chimeric nature is most likely the reason for their evolutionary success and diversity. Mitochondria are a fundamental and defining component of the eukaryotic cell. They have been initially studied in a restricted number of taxa, yielding quite consistent genomic features that led to a generalized ‘textbook description’ and to the expectation that such features were ubiquitous across eukaryotes. In addition to this, the reduced genome size contributed to the common perception of a marginal role of mitochondrial genetic information, limited mostly to cell respiration. For these reasons, mitochondrial biology and evolution have been somewhat overlooked for a while, but the central role of mitochondria in most eukaryotic functions is now well established. However, the molecular machinery behind basic mitochondrial functions and its evolution are still poorly characterized. MtDNA replication, transcription, and translation, assembly and functional coordination of respiratory complexes, mitonuclear interplay and coevolution, mitochondrial inheritance, heteroplasmy and its evolutionary consequences are some of the processes that need to be thoroughly investigated to fully understand the basics of eukaryotic life. The best approach to do that is comparative genomics. By identifying genes and pathways involved in mitochondrial biology across eukaryotic biodiversity and reconstructing their evolution it will be possible to unravel mitochondrial functions at the molecular level and understand the evolution of physiological adaptations to different environments. This symposium aims to showcase comparative genomics research across eukaryotes, and tackle its theoretical, methodological, and technical challenges.
  • 9 - Evolution on repeat in the genomics era
    Organizers: Elena Conti, Rosa Fernandez Invited speakers and titles of their talk: David Baum: The parallelism-convergence continuum and its implications for homology assessment Nathalie Feiner: The genomic basis of a repeatedly evolving sexually-selected syndrome in Mediterranean wall lizards Description or the symposium: Similar features evolved repeatedly across distantly or closely related lineages occupying similar ecological niches. Different terms are used to describe evolution on repeat, including convergence, parallelism, and recurrence. The existing terminology was developed when knowledge of the genes controlling specific features was absent or rudimental. However, the rapid accumulation of genomic data, especially high-quality reference genomes and transcriptomes, now enables us to discover connections between genes and traits in independent lineages, warranting the reframing of evolutionary iteration in a new epistemological landscape. We will discuss the complexity of recurrent evolution along multiple axes, from concepts to case studies, from genes to phenotypes and back, addressing the following questions: Does the knowledge generated through comparative genomics call for new ways of thinking, studying, and communicating about evolutionary iteration? How can we use tree thinking to test hypotheses on recurrent evolution at the phenotypic and genotypic levels? How do we implement concepts of evolutionary reinvention at different hierarchical scales (from nucleotide positions to gene families, networks, and phenotypes) in specific case studies? Does convergence of phenotypic traits correspond to convergence at the genotypic level?
  • 10 - Integrating fossils and molecules to reconstruct the evolution of life in deep time
    Organizers: Ariel Chipman, Harriet Drage, Romain Sabroux, Rachel Warnock Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Joanna Wolfe: The challenge and promise of integrating genomics and fossils in deep time phenotypic evolution Jeffrey Thompson: Using fossils, genes, and developmental biology to understand the evolution of Echinozoan body plans Description or the symposium: The development of comparative genomics has contributed significantly to our understanding of the early evolution of plants and animals, as it provides more data and better ways to analyse them. But these data are only available for extant species, a small fraction of the total biodiversity that has existed on Earth. Only through the integration of fossils and genomic information can we hope to gain a holistic understanding of the evolution of morphology, physiology and genomes in early plants and animals. Efforts are being made to take fossil evidence into account when attempting to understand the mechanisms underlying the establishment of major body plans. A diversity of approaches has also been developed to integrate fossil and living taxa into phylogenies, including molecular clocks, total evidence phylogenies and tip-dating methods. The challenges that remain include the generation of taxon-dense timetrees with thousands of taxa, developing large scale morphological datasets and better models, and the interpretation of fossil body plans in relation to extant developmental genes. This symposium aims to bring together scholars with an interest in phylogenomics, tree-dating, modelling of morphological data, gene regulatory network evolution, the evolution of gene expression patterns in cells and development, and who want ultimately to integrate data and understanding from fossils with extant organisms. The aim is to develop a discussion between like-minded people with different backgrounds, to disseminate the most recent ideas in the field and to spur novel thinking in this exciting research area.
  • 11 - Entangled histories: insights into the evolution of humans and their domesticates through paleogenomics
    Organizers: Mehmet Somel, Eva-Maria Geigl, Anders Götherström, Pavlos Pavlidis Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Anders Bergström: The entangled genomic histories of humans and dogs Victoria Mullin: Ten thousand years of cattle human interaction Description or the symposium: Our understanding of recent demographic history and natural selection processes in human populations has increased dramatically over the last decade owing to the ever-growing number of genome sequences, in particular, ancient genomes. Genomic and paleogenomic data from domestic species are also multiplying. The analysis of these data is in its infancy but has already revealed notable parallels between evolutionary changes in humans and interacting taxa. These include parallel histories of dispersal and admixture, as well as cases of convergent evolution. In this session, we will cover recent and wide-ranging discoveries in this emerging field of paleogenomics. We expect the session to provide a deeper understanding of our own history, and also of the demographic dynamics of domesticates and their convergent adaptations.
  • 12 - Evolution of sensory systems
    Organizers: Camille Meslin, Roberto Feuda, Nicolas Montagné, Lino Ometto Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Marjorie Liénard: The evolution and function of insect visual opsins Thomas Auer: Drosophila sechellia: a model for chemosensory system evolution Description or the symposium: The ability to perceive stimuli from inside and the outside world plays a fundamental role in allowing the survival of an organism in its environment. Perception of these signals can also play a key role in several evolutionary processes such as the adaptation to a new ecological niche or reproductive isolation. It is not surprising, therefore, that different sensory receptors and systems have evolved in both unicellular and pluricellular organisms, from simple chemosensory receptors to complex visual systems. The latest advances in genetic and genomics approaches and in molecular and technological tools (CRISPR-Cas9, single-cell, cryoEM, AlphaFold2, …) are providing researchers with an unprecedented power to dissect the genetic, structural and physiological bases of these sensory systems, and is revealing their fascinating evolutionary history in both model and non-model species. At this symposium, we intend to bring together researchers interested in presenting the results of their most recent studies and in learning and discussing the latest findings and hypotheses on this very multidisciplinary topic. Studies on molecular evolution, phylogenetics, comparative genomics and gene family evolution of chemosensory genes are welcome, as are studies on the evolution of the associated sensory systems across the different life forms.
  • 13 - Polygenic adaptation – predictability and pleiotropy
    Organizers: Neda Barghi, Carol Eunmi Lee, Christian Schlötterer Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Jacqueline Sztepanacz: The role of pleiotropy in generating evolutionary limits Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos: A systems view of polygenic adaptation in an Australian wildflower Description or the symposium: Most quantitative traits have a polygenic basis which involves very many loci of mostly small effects. This has two important evolutionary implications: 1) The contribution of many loci to the generation of phenotype implies that the phenotypes could be generated by redundant genotypes. This redundant property of genetic architecture could lead to diverse patterns of molecular variation under polygenic adaptation. Populations could use different sets of adaptive alleles, which lead to nonparallel genomic patterns of adaptation among replicate populations. The emerging empirical data indicate that certain factors could affect the extent of repeatability during adaptation, including selection from standing genetic variation, linkage disequilibrium, pleiotropy, or epistasis. 2) Given that complex organisms have many traits but finite number of loci, the polygenic basis of traits implies that each trait cannot have a private set of contributing loci. Thus, a single mutation/gene may affect multiple phenotypes, i.e. pleiotropy. Despite the pervasiveness of pleiotropy observed in genome-wide association studies, the extent of its role in adaptation is not understood. It is generally thought that pleiotropy restricts adaptation. However, recent theoretical and empirical studies have challenged this view by showing that intermediate pleiotropy and also the high modularity of gene-trait networks can facilitate adaptation. With the increasing availability of genomic data from a variety of natural and experimental populations, it is becoming more feasible to investigate the genomic patterns of polygenic adaptation and the role of pleiotropy in polygenic adaptation. The goal of this symposium is to amass the empirical studies to examine the factors that cause the repeatability, or lack thereof, of evolutionary patterns, and to provide a better understanding of the role of pleiotropy in adaptation. Thus, we welcome studies of natural and experimental populations that focus on the extent to which polygenic adaptation is repeatable, and approaches characterizing pleiotropy and its role in adaptation.
  • 14 - Novel proteins and their emergence from LUCA until today
    Organizers: Claudia Alvarez Carreno, Erich Bornberg-Bauer Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Klara Hlouchova: Early Proteins: Could they do without all 20? Richard Goldstein: Principles of protein evolution from a biophysical perspective Description or the symposium: Proteins are the universal work-horses of all forms of life and they come in an amazing plethora of different shapes with zillions of activities. This session aims at bringing together currently disparate perspectives of protein evolution which address, amongst others, the following questions: what constraints may have shaped the emergence of the first foldable protein motifs and domains at the dawn of life; how ancient protein motifs and domains have diverged and diversified generating a vast repertoire of topologically unrelated folds; and finally, how likely de novo proteins, encoded by previously non-coding genomic regions, may result in viable proteins with a range of structural propensities (from intrinsic disorder to the ability to fold stably). Specifically, we will bring together computational, structural and evolutionary biologists and geneticists with the aim to discuss in depth and breadth various models of protein structure evolution, their agreements and possible discrepancies. We aim at contrasting the concepts of protein folds, domains, motifs and disorder and ask if, and under which conditions, primordial or extant protein sequences can give rise to or are evolvable to become foldable proteins. Noting that these questions echo the long-standing conundrums of how functional proteins can emerge from random sequences, we propose that this field has now received new impetus from the burgeoning field of Deep Learning and the frequent use of ancestral sequence reconstruction which allows us to "travel back in time".
  • 15 - Animal genomics goes wild
    Organizers: Melanie Lindner, Marcel E. Visser, Anders Bergström, David Díez del Molino Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Susan Johnston: Sexual dimorphism in recombination rates & landscapes in wild vertebrates Eline Lorenzen: Arctic marine mammals in a changing environment Description or the symposium: Advances in sequencing technologies are allowing the collection of large-scale genomic data from natural populations of animals, enabling insights into evolutionary processes at a range of time scales. This includes studies of long-term study populations in the wild, some of which have a wealth of individual-level data on phenotypes or life histories collected over decades. It also includes studies of the deeper evolutionary history and diversity of species and how they have responded to environmental changes, over time scales of thousands of years or more, using present-day genomes as well as the growing use of ancient genomes. This symposium will bring together researchers working on population genomics in wild species across the animal kingdom, studying natural evolution and diversity at the level of the genome but also those of gene expression and epigenetics. It will cover, for example, adaptation to local environments, the genomic architecture of trait variation and its maintenance and evolution over time, demographic histories, extinction and genomic erosion, and the causes and consequences of admixture and introgression. In this way, we aim to synthesize and highlight recent advances in ‘wild genomics’ and identify future research revenues for the application of genomics in wild animals at time scales ranging from decades to hundreds of thousands of years.
  • 16 - From the ancient to the recent: using temporal genomics to answer questions in evolutionary biology
    Organizers: Mozes Blom, Bonnie Fraser, Josephine Paris, Joshua Penalba Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Leo Speidel: Zooming in on the ancient world with genealogy-boosted analyses of ancient DNA Vincent Buffalo: The case for conducting a thousand more temporal genomics studies Description or the symposium: Temporal genomic data, where genomes are sequenced at multiple time points, is fast becoming an important tool to answer questions in evolution and has the promise to detect signals that may be otherwise missed when analysing contemporary samples from a single time point. This includes the analysis of selection on polygenic traits, soft selective sweeps, fluctuating selection and recent demographic changes. Concurrently, Natural History Collections are archives of biodiversity across time and space, and represent the primary (and often only) resource for temporal sampling of many non-model organisms. However, multiple challenges, from DNA extraction to analysis, need to be overcome before we can make full use of temporal and historical samples. For example, extracting genetic material from formalin-preserved specimens remains notoriously difficult and has important bearings for large groups of organisms across the Tree-of-Life. Similarly, accounting for biological biases inherent with ancient and historical samples, such as damage, fragmentation, and trace quantities remains a thriving area of research. Finally, evolution occurring over recent times (<200 generations), when human impact has been most prevalent, will require advances in analytical methodology because standard methods are most accurate only at deeper timescales. The purpose of this symposium is therefore to (1) feature recent methodological advances that have pushed the boundaries of data acquisition and inference using historical and temporal sampling, and to (2) showcase empirical studies that use temporal data to track evolutionary change.
  • 17 - Roles and evolution of oxygen sensing across kingdoms
    Organizers: Chiara Zuccato, Fiorella Lo Schiavo, Laura De Gara, Giulia Piaggio Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Pierdomenico Perata: The many facets of hypoxia in plants Emily Flashman: Cysteinyl Dioxygenases: A molecular view of their role in oxygen sensing in plants, animals and evolution Description or the symposium: Most animals and plants are aerobic organisms requiring oxygen for respiration. The ability to sense oxygen is of great importance for aerobic organisms. In plants oxygen availability is greatly lowered during flooding events, but it is also a physiological condition in bulky seeds and fruits. In animals and plants the ability to sense oxygen helps in the adaptation to high altitudes. In animals hypoxia is often a condition observed in cancer cells. How did oxygen sensing evolve in plants and animals? Which are the similarities of oxygen sensing via HIF1a and the corresponding system in plants? How do we explain the similarities and differences between oxygen sensing in humans and in plants? Can we modulate oxygen sensing based on the oxygen dependent degradation of specific proteins to adapt plant and animal cells to altered oxygen availability? How the O2-binding heme sensing sites impact on the protein functional roles. How oxygen tension in multicellular organisms impacts on normal development and pathological processes? These themes are currently of high interest in laboratories studying hypoxia sensing and will be described in this symposium.
  • 18 - Modeling the genomic, social, and ecological drivers of speciation
    Organizers: Iker Rivas-González, Arun Durvasula Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Guojie Zhang: Incomplete lineage sorting drove the phenotypic evolution in marsupials Tomas Marques-Bonet: A global primate sequencing initiative: lessons from conservation, evolution and speciation Description or the symposium: Understanding the evolutionary process by which new species arise is a long-term goal of evolutionary biology. Research has shown that simple models of bifurcating trees are insufficient to describe this process. Instead, complex demographic events like rapid radiations or hybridization after speciation create a tangled web of gene trees along the genome. In addition, ecological factors, such as new geographical barriers, and social behaviors, such as changing mating preferences, complicate the picture further. However, advances in genome sequencing coupled with careful ecological studies allow us to explore the complex interplay of these factors and dissect the molecular mechanisms that drive speciation across a wide array of species.
  • 19 - Evolution of structural genomic variation in populations & species
    Organizers: Rus Hoelzel Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Scott Edwards: Pangenomes of Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma) reveal abundant structural variation and rapid shifts in the landscape of satellite DNA Sissel Jentoft: The Evolutionary role of genomic architectures in marine fishes Description or the symposium: Much of our understanding of the genomics of adaptive and neutral evolution has been based on single nucleotide variants (SNV), providing key insights. However, we now know that this is only part of the story. Genomes are in a state of flux generating structural variation (SV) associated with translocations, inversions, repetitive regions, transposons, variable gene copy number, etc. The ‘pangenome’ for a species or population is comprised of a core sequence shared by all, together with structurally variable or dispensable components found only in some individuals. We understand less about SV evolution, in part because short-read sequencing provides an incomplete representation of these variants. For example, according to the Human Genome Structural Variation Consortium, only 30% of the structural variants detected in high-quality long-read genomes were detected in short-read genomes. However, even relatively low read-depth, short-read sequencing has revealed interesting and unexpected patterns of SV among populations and species, and now long-read sequencing is becoming more accessible and providing deeper inference. While some of these variants will be evolutionarily neutral, examples are increasingly being proposed for SV changes that lead to local adaptations and the evolution of ecotypes, sometimes best understood when both SNV and SV changes are considered together. A more complete understanding of evolutionary processes will certainly require a better understanding of structural variation, which will also promote better inference for applications such as agricultural development and conservation. This symposium will highlight the present state of understanding and help identify valuable directions of study for the future.
  • 20 - Evolutionary biology through a functional genomics lens
    Organizers: Irene Gallego Romero, Amanda Lea Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Genevieve Housman: Cell culture systems to interrogate primate skeletal functional genomics Sarah Kocher: Modifications to an underlying genetic toolkit can shape both behavioral plasticity and behavioral evolution Description or the symposium: A long-standing goal of evolutionary biology is to decode how gene regulatory processes contribute to organismal diversity, both within and between species. This question has remained challenging to answer, due to the difficulties of predicting function from non-coding sequence and to the constraints of wet-lab methods, which often are not easy to apply in natural settings or in non-model species. However, recent developments in functional genomics have put evolutionary biology’s theoretical goals within reach. For example, 1) massively parallel reporter assays allow testing of thousands to millions of sequences for regulatory activity in a single experiment; 2) induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) make it possible to study rare or hard-to-sample cell types; and 3) single cell resolution sequencing makes it possible to decompose gene regulation in heterogeneous tissues. Importantly, most of these techniques are suitable to use in both model and non model-systems, though their application is not without challenges. In this symposium, we highlight recent studies that have made use of the above approaches (and more) to address explicitly evolutionary questions that have lain at the heart of the discipline since its inception, from the evolution of sociality in insects to the molecular underpinning of human uniqueness.
  • 21 - Science for everybody: education and outreach in molecular biology and evolution
    Organizers: Tugce Bilgin Sonay, Debora Monego Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Laura MacDonald: Facilitating the inclusive classroom: Building meaningful connections with and between students Natalia Pasternak Taschner: Supporting science is not the same as understanding science: teaching critical thinking for science-based policies Description or the symposium: Science is not accessible to the majority of the population. Due to the characteristic level of uncertainty and shortage of dissemination associated with scientific knowledge, society has developed a lack of trust and interest in it over the past decades. In this context, science education and outreach in and outside of academic institutions are critically important. How different communities around the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in the last couple of years signifies this urgency. This symposium will be a meeting point for everyone with an interest in scientific education and outreach, with the common goal of making molecular biology and evolutionary concepts accessible to students and the general public. Specifically, questions we will address are: How can we make the field more inclusive and incorporate human dimensions in how molecular biology and evolution are taught and communicated? How do we turn such individualistic efforts into a collaborative endeavor? How do we reconcile these efforts with the time and resources allocated to making ‘real science’, which is mostly perceived as active research? Presenters will offer international perspectives on their research and experiences to achieve science literacy in society and to create a deeper understanding and excitement for science for all students in an inclusive way. Additionally, they will share resources and ongoing support on designing and implementing these approaches. Thus, we encourage all scientists, whether they teach and engage in outreach or not, to share their innovative ideas in our symposium.
  • 22 - Experimental evolution of non-model species and systems
    Organizers: Caitlin Pepperell, Lucy Weinert Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Vaughn Cooper: Adaptation to overflow metabolism by mutations that impair tRNA modification in experimentally evolved bacteria Britt Koskella: Experimental evolution from populations to communities Description or the symposium: The short generation times of microbes allows real time observations of evolution in action. The decades-long experiment of passaging Escherichia coli provides a striking example of the power of this approach in illuminating fundamental evolutionary processes. Foundational research on model microbes has created a solid basis for the field of experimental evolution, and enabled new adaptations of this approach to less tractable organisms. The development of high throughput methods of genotyping and phenotyping microbial populations has similarly broadened the possible applications for the tools of experimental evolution. Microbes vary widely with respect to generation time, rate of mutation, and recombination, enabling investigation of evolutionary dynamics under diverse conditions. Research in the field has also recently expanded to include studies of microbes in communities, an exciting and highly relevant approach given the importance of within- and between-species interactions in shaping microbial adaptation. Experimental evolution methods are powerful means of identifying the genetic basis of microbial traits. This has practical implications, for example, in studies of antimicrobial resistance. With this symposium we aim to bring together researchers working in diverse fields and systems, including those tackling both theoretical and applied questions with experimental evolution.
  • 23 - Evolutionary approaches to understand cancer across scales
    Organizers: Alison Feder, Robert Noble Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Ivana Bozic: Evolutionary dynamics of tumor progression Alexander Cagan: The impossibility of whales: somatic mutation across the tree of life Description or the symposium: Somatic mutation and subsequent evolution are unavoidable outcomes of exogenous and endogenous processes affecting the cells of multicellular organisms, which only rarely give rise to cancer. Key to disentangling why cancer risk varies among species, tissues and tumors is a deeper understanding of the mechanisms driving mutational accumulation, and the evolutionary forces that permit those mutations to change in frequency. Increased genomic data collection and methodological advances now permit us to examine these processes with unprecedented resolution. In this symposium, we will bring together researchers quantitatively examining somatic evolution across multiple scales: What are the processes driving somatic evolution across organisms and how does this contribute to cancer risk? What properties make some tissues or cell lineages vulnerable to cancer while others remain robust? Why does somatic evolution drive only some tumors towards malignancy and metastasis? We invite submissions that build new frameworks to analyze genomic data derived from cancerous or healthy tissues, exploit emerging data types (including single cell and/or spatial RNA-sequencing, epigenomes, in-situ hybridization and multi-region sequencing) from an explicitly evolutionary lens, or offer theoretical advances in the understanding of tumor risk and progression. By considering these shared processes across scales with approaches deriving from genomics, mathematical modeling and evolutionary theory, we hope to reach a deeper understanding of how and why tumors emerge and ultimately cause disease.
  • 24 - Indels: computational methods, evolutionary dynamics, and biological applications
    Organizers: Maria Anisimova, Mario dos Reis, Tal Pupko, Ian Holmes Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Gerton Lunter: The impact of indels on bioinformatics, health, and evolution Benjamin Redelings: Indels, Rate Variation, and Heterotachy Description or the symposium: Insertions and deletions (indels) constitute the second most important source of natural genomic variation. Indels make up to 25% of genomic variants in humans and are involved in complex evolutionary processes including speciation, adaptation, and genomic rearrangements. Furthermore, recent advances in long-read sequencing technologies allow detailed inference of indel variation in species and populations. Yet, despite their importance, in evolutionary studies indels have traditionally been ignored or mishandled due to a lack of comprehensive methodologies and statistical models of indel dynamics. This symposium addresses these issues by bringing together experts in the field to discuss indel variation and their effects in human and other natural populations, their contribution to evolutionary processes, and the development of statistical methodologies to incorporate indels in evolutionary inference.
  • 25 - The puzzle of eukaryotic cellular origins
    Organizers: Davide Pisani, Spang Anja Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Courtney Stairs: Anoxychlamydiales and the origin of anaerobic metabolism in eukaryotes Robert Robinson: The functional origins of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton Description or the symposium: The origin of the eukaryotic cell represents a major transition in the evolution of life. Recent discoveries have uncovered many new insights into the microbial origins of eukaryotes and supported models that emphasise the importance of symbioses and species-species interactions in the evolution of metabolic and cellular complexity. However, the precise number and nature of the symbiotic events that underpinned eukaryogenesis, is still debated. For example, some hypotheses such as the Hydrogen hypothesis, suggest that there has been only one symbiotic event, between an archaeon (the nucleus) and an alpha-proteobacterium (the mitochondrion). Other hypotheses such as the syntrophic hypothesis suggests that first an archaeon (the future nucleus) underwent a process of symbiosis with a delta-proteobacterium (the future cytoplasm), and that it was a second symbiosis (with an alpha proteobacterium) that later gave rise to the mitochondrion. Other more complex hypotheses, such as the serial endosymbiosis hypotheses suggest that many symbiotic events happened at the base of the eukaryotes, with the origin of the mitochondria representing the last step in the process of eukaryogenesis. Currently open questions in this area include the number and order of symbiotic events, what organisms were the partners entering the symbiosis, the relative timing and importance of such events and the distinct origins of eukaryotic cellular and metabolic features. This symposium proposes to review current hypotheses of eukaryogenesis, providing a venue to present and discuss cutting edge studies and new methodologies that are currently being developed in this exciting research area.
  • 26 - Genomics of adaptations to extreme environments
    Organizers: Allie Graham, Sarah Lucas, Emily Kopania Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Joanna Kelley: Fish tales: convergent adaptation to extreme environments Andres Moreno Estrada: Latin American genomes tell extreme tales on isolation, adaptation, and migration Description or the symposium Organisms adapted to extreme environmental conditions provide excellent systems to investigate basic questions about the origins of biodiversity. For example, is adaptive evolution the result of standing variation or new mutations? Do different organisms adapt to similar environments through parallel mechanisms? Comparing highly specialized or tolerant populations to their ancestral lineages in non-extreme habitats allows for the opportunity to understand evolutionary processes that give rise to both phenotypic and genotypic novelty - such processes can facilitate organismal function under adverse environmental conditions and even enable population divergence. There is much to be gleaned from both prokaryotes (archaea, bacteria) and eukaryotes (plants, animals) living in harsh conditions, including but not limited to environments that are high altitude, those which have extreme ranges of temperature, nutrients, water availability, or toxic materials. This symposium will feature both theoretical and experimental work across a broad range of systems from researchers seeking to understand the molecular basis of adaptation
  • 27 - Regulatory evolution and the emergence of diversity
    Organizers: Paolo Franchini, Francesca Raffini, Carmelo Fruciano Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Patricia J. Wittkopp: Evolutionary changes in gene regulatory networks inferred from patterns of co-expression Wilfried Haerty: Regulatory networks evolution underlying the rapid diversification of cichlids fishes in the Great African Lakes Description or the symposium: Regulatory evolution and associated changes in gene expression often underpin rapid phenotypic shifts. This is particularly relevant to the initial stages of the speciation process and to the adaptive potential of natural populations in the face of changing ecological pressures. The central role of gene expression regulation in adaptive divergence and evolution is becoming increasingly clear as more data-rich and nuanced empirical work is undertaken on model and non-model organisms. Indeed, the classic sequencing of protein-coding transcripts across conditions can now be augmented with sequencing of several non-coding RNAs (e.g., miRNA, piRNA, lncRNA, circRNA) that have key regulatory roles in gene expression. Further, analyses of differential expression of individual protein-coding genes are now routinely complemented with analyses of co-expression across transcripts, typically involving the use of statistical network methods and the identification of modules of co-expressed transcripts. Finally, the increasing availability of full genome sequences and epigenomic data allows the identification and evolutionary characterization of regulatory sequences (e.g., transcription factors, miRNA binding sites). These approaches collectively allow evolutionary-relevant analyses of gene (co)expression and regulation across genes, populations, species, and environments. This symposium is a forum for theoretical, methodological, and empirical research on taxa from across the tree of life. Bringing together contributions from scientists with disparate backgrounds and career stages, the symposium will contribute to illuminating the role of regulatory evolution and change in co-expression in promoting phenotypic variation and adaptation, or more generally the emergence of biological diversity.
  • 28 - Host-pathogen co-evolutionary dynamics through the lens of paleogenomics
    Organizers: Miriam Bravo-López, Federica Pierini, Linda Ongaro, Marco Capodiferro Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Gaspard Kerner: A time-series aDNA approach detects genetic adaptation to pathogens in post-Neolithic Europe Maria A. Spyrou: Investigating the genomic history of plague, from the Neolithic to the present Description or the symposium: Host-pathogen interaction has a significant impact on human survival, as evidenced by the recent pandemic. One of the most important challenges in the long voyage of humans from Africa to other continents was facing new pathogens, which are known to be among the main selection forces in human evolution. Over evolutionary time, the encounters between human hosts and pathogens have likely resulted in reciprocal adaptive genetic changes. Finally, the fast and ongoing development of genomic tools for the analysis of ancient DNA provides a unique opportunity to study this coevolution directly into the past, tracking the genetic strategies selected to overcome the difficulties of infections over time. The aim of this symposium is to assemble findings from the field of Paleogenomics addressing the interactions between pathogens and their hosts throughout human history, such as pathogen origins and spread, the genetic processes involved in the emergence of epidemics among past human populations, and the evolutionary mechanisms underlying human adaptation to infectious disease exposure.
  • 29 - Leveraging evolution: controlling wild populations using gene drives and pathogens
    Organizers: Anna Clark, Philipp Messer Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Florence Débarre: Spatial structure and demographic feedbacks affect the spread of a gene drive Paul Thomas: Using synthetic and natural gene drives for feral rodent population suppression Description or the symposium: Concerns with physical and chemical approaches to control invasive species and disease vectors have heightened interest in genetic and biological methods that may provide species-specific, humane, and effective population control. One example are synthetic gene drives, which promise a powerful evolutionary mechanism for rapidly propagating genetic traits through wild populations to permanently modify or suppress invasive species or disease vectors. Another example are parasitic intracellular microbes (e.g. Wolbachia) that can suppress populations through biasing offspring sex-ratios. Despite significant international discussion on the potential deployment of such systems, there remain critical concerns about efficacy, containment, and unforeseen ecological consequences. Laboratory experiments are also revealing the technical difficulty of replicating insect gene drive success in vertebrate species, posing a significant challenge for efforts to locally eradicate problematic invasive mammals like rodents. Advances in computing power are enabling increasingly realistic simulations of biocontrol approaches that can better capture the complexity of population structure, spatiotemporal variation, pathogen transmission and evolution, and demographic and ecological processes. This should allow us to greatly improve our understanding of the expected evolutionary dynamics of such approaches in wild populations. Our symposium aims to highlight the diversity of international research on these new biocontrol methods and facilitate collaboration to encourage robust international development and understanding.
  • 30 - IDEA symposium
    Organizers: Ravinder Kanda, Samantha López Clinton Invited speakers and titles of their talk: C. Eduardo G. Amorim (SMBE IDEA): Achievements and future plans for inclusion, diversity, equity, and access Sarah Bay (GSA): Approaching Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a Scientific Society: Lessons Learned at GSA Sadie Paez (EBP): Beyond absolutes: Justice, equity, diversity, inclusion in the Earth BioGenome project Description or the symposium: This session will focus on the activities, approaches, and accomplishments of those in the MBE community to address issues related to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA). We will be hearing from similar initiatives from other societies, and the approaches they are taking to address challenges in these areas, in addition to SMBE members who are undertaking projects to improve IDEA within the society. We anticipate that this session will highlight the needs and hopes of our diverse international scientific community to improve IDEA within MBE.
  • 31 - Causation in protein evolution
    Organizers: Hanon McShea, Georg Hochberg Invited speakers and titles of their talk: Joanna Masel: Birth, death and tinkering: levels of proteome selection at different timescales Joseph Thornton: The epistatic architecture of proteins is simple, and it facilitates functional evolution Description or the symposium: In the light of evolution, what gives rise to observable properties of proteins, such as marginal stability of folding, catalytic rate enhancement, amino acid composition, and multimeric status? How do physical and physiological realities such as temperature, mutation bias, and crowded nature of cellular environments affect the outcomes of protein evolution that we observe? Causal questions arise in a variety of evolutionary contexts, including but not limited to de novo protein emergence, adaptation to extreme environments, long-term trends, and the degrees to which protein evolution is neutral, nearly neutral, and adaptive. From a biochemistry perspective, the advent of high-throughput techniques provides the means to test the mechanistic basis of evolutionary theories. These include multiplexed measurements of thermodynamic, kinetic, and fitness effects of mutations and natural variation in proteins, as well as high-throughput prediction of protein structures, for example Alphafold. This symposium aims to facilitate interaction between evolutionary biologists and biochemists working on evolutionary problems.

More information about SMBE awards can be found here.

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