Who’s really riding the subway with you? Characterization of the microbial communities on Boston transport

(Figure modified from Hsu et al., 2016, Boston transport map and wikicommons image of Boston)

Understanding the microbes around us is an important challenge to take on. There have been articles covering changes in microbial communities among rural and more urbanized environments and there’s a whole blog dedicated to microbes and the built environment. An interesting model system for studying the relationship between microbes that inhabit the built environment and humans include transit systems, some of the largest of which shuttle around more than 1 million passengers daily. Clarifying microbial community dynamics in transportation systems has implications related to human health and disease.

Figure 1. Hsu et al., 2016.

Figure 1. Hsu et al., 2016.

Sometimes progress related to understanding microbes in the built environment is accompanied by two steps back. Last year, a study on New York subways (which are part of the largest public transport system in the US) stated that the NY subway system harbored the bugs responsible for the plague (Yersinia pestis) and anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) (Afshinekoo et al., 2015). However, not long after the publication of this study, other authors demonstrated that the data was not actually properly analyzed (Ackelsberg et al., 2015).

Figure 2. Hsu et al., 2016.

Figure 2. Hsu et al., 2016.

Considering how integral public transport is to everyday life for so many people, it’s a bit surprising that there are very few studies focused on understanding the microbes associated with these systems. Just this week, the first attempt at obtaining a comprehensive microbial metagenomic profile was published by Hsu and colleagues this week.

Figure 3. Hsu et al., 2016.

Figure 3. Hsu et al., 2016.

Researchers sampled everything from seats to hanging grips across three subway lines, as well as the touchscreens of the ticketing machines at five subway stations. They obtained a total of 73 samples and using a combination of 16S amplicon and metagenomic sequencing allowed for the characterization of microbial community composition. They found that the type of surface sampled was more influential on taxonomic composition, in comparison to the material itself, or differences in train line or geographic location. You can take a sigh of relief, not many antibiotic resistance genes or virulence factors were identified. The authors suggest that this study as well as future similar attempts might indeed improve future transit system design.

Figure 4. Hsu et al., 2016.

Figure 4. Hsu et al., 2016.

Touchscreen microbial communities were more similar to other touchscreen samples, and train line didn’t seem to really influence community structure. The authors reported that location of ticketing machines (either indoor / outdoor or underground) did have some influence on community diversity, and specifically, indoor or outdoor exposure markedly influences its composition. Essentially, microbial communities in subways originate from human skin and the bacterial side of things was mainly made up of members from the Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria while the yeast Malassezia globosa, as well as Propionibacteriam phages accounted for the majority of the nonbacterial representatives. Interestingly, this study demonstrated that with the use of the appropriate methods, no pathogens were detected.

Figure 5. Hsu et al., 2016.

Figure 5. Hsu et al., 2016.

With the mountains of sequence data available, it’s essential that methods developed for analysis are able to accurately identify the presence of pathogens. This is essential in not only places like hospitals, but also on fresh produce and in public transportation systems. Previous instances where data was incorrectly assessed highlight the danger of not appropriately utilizing available methods for data analysis.


Urban Transit System Microbial Communities Differ by Surface Type and Interaction with Humans and the Environment. Tiffany Hsu, Regina Joice, Jose Vallarino, Galeb Abu-Ali, Erica M. Hartmann, Afrah Shafquat, CaseyDuLong, Catherine Baranowski, Dirk Gevers, Jessica L. Green, Xochitl C. Morgan, John D. Spengler, and Curtis Huttenhower. 

Avoiding Pandemic Fears in the Subway and Conquering the Platypus. A. Gonzalez, Y. Vázquez-Baeza, J. B. Pettengill, A. Ottesen, D. McDonald, and R. Knight. 

Lack of Evidence for Plague or Anthrax on the New York City Subway. Joel Ackelsberg, Jennifer Rakeman, Scott Hughes, Jeannine Petersen, Paul Mead, Martin Schriefer, Luke Kingry, Alex Hoffmaster, Jay E. Gee. DOI: 10.1016/j.cels.2015.07.008

Modern methods for delineating metagenomic complexity. Afshinnekoo, Ebrahim, et al. Cell systems 1.1 (2015): 6-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.cels.2015.07.007

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Live from #Evol2016 — Tuesday highlights

The Molecular Ecologist team was all over this year’s Evolution meeting in Austin, Texas.

During our coverage of the meeting, we’ve been previewing presentations we’re excited about and recapping the highlights of each day here on the blog. As the main conference concluded on Tuesday evening, this is our final post in that format. However, you can still find all of the TME contributors on Twitter using the sidebar on the right or compiled in a handy Twitter list here. Additional meeting news and older tweets continue to pile up under the hashtag #Evol2016.

We’ll see everyone next year in the Rose City!


Among the many perks of holding the Evolution Meetings in Austin, this TME contributor was particularly excited to make the pilgrimage to the Texas Chili Parlour bar for Mad Dog Margaritas.

Highlights from Tuesday, June 21


Filepe Barreto “Functional and genomic consequences of mitonuclear coevolution during population divergence in a marine copepod” rRNA and tRNAs interacting with the mitochondrial genome (which ~20% divergent between populations) is under positive selection.

Cathy Newman and Chris Austin “Using sequence capture of UCEs for intraspecific phylogenetics and species delimitation of a large-genome salamander, Plethodon serratus” UCE loci worked well for phylogeography and species delimitation in salamanders despite huge ~20Gb genome size. Data suggested seven isolated populations are each different species.

John McCormack, Eugenia Zarza, Brant Faircloth, Whitney Tsai, Robert Bryson, John Klicka “Testing for hidden histories of gene flow in highland birds using genomic markers” Speciation with gene flow may be the norm rather than the exception.


Brian Moore; Sebastian Hoehna; Michael May; Bruce Rannala; John Huelsenbeck (Tuesday 21 June MR3): Bayesian analysis of macroevolutionary mixtures (BAMM): A critical appraisal Brian Moore and colleagues offered a solid, simulation-based appraisal of Bayesian

Analysis of Macroevolutionary Mixtures (a program from the Rabosky lab). John McCormack; Eugenia Zarza; Brant Faircloth; Whitney Tsai; Robert Bryson; John Klicka (Tuesday 21 June MR5): Testing for hidden histories of gene flow in highland birds using genomic markers John talked about his ongoing work with Aphelocoma jays in Mexico, the prevalence and driveres of gene tree discordance in the system, which lays the basis for future comparative phylogeographic studies in this region.

Julia Clarke*; Chad Eliason; Leah Hudson; Hector Garza; Taylor Watts (Tuesday 21 June MR6) Exceptional preservation and the fossil record of tetrapod integument Julia talked about her lab’s nice work on evolution of integuments in tetrapods, differences in the preservation potential of hair vs. feathers in the fossil record, and how taphonomy may have influenced our views of hair and feather evolution.


Justin Havird: Expression, selection, and co-evolution in mitonuclear genes — A tide of research on mitonuclear interactions continues to swell, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of big mysteries left. This talk started to approach one of them: mitochondrial genes involved in mitonuclear interactions are expressed much higher than nuclear genes. This discrepancy might have something to do with differential rates of transcription and translation, meaning mitochondria have to be prepared with proteins since they operate at a slower pace.

Geoffrey Hill: Mitonuclear Ecology — Hill brought an end to the cytonuclear interactions symposium with a review of this hypotheses relating mitonuclear compatibility and sexual selection. Buoyed by the recent discovery of the genes that control red pigmentation in bird feathers, Hill explained that the pressures on females to insure their offsprings have optimally-matched mitotypes might play a big role in male phenotypes.


Brant Faircloth: “Able was I ere I saw assembly errors.” Faircloth’s talk focused on how the combined effects of sequencing and assembly errors influence downstream phylogenetic analysis. Using simulations, he showed sequencing error could lead to concerning numbers of incorrect bases in the final assemblies of three popular programs — trinity, abyss, and velvet. (If you’re looking to make a choice based on this metric, abyss arguably performed the best). However, even the assemblies with the highest levels of error still resulted in phylogenetic trees with identical topology and similar branch lengths as the “error-free” dataset he used as a comparison.  My take away: we should be worried enough to start considering sequencing and assembly error more seriously, but not that worried, as for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to influence the overall conclusions of phylogenomics studies.


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Live from #Evol2016 – highlights from Monday and what to see on Tuesday June 21st


The Molecular Ecologist team is all over this year’s Evolution meeting in Austin, Texas.

As part of our coverage of the meeting, we’ve been previewing presentations we’re excited about and recapping the highlights of each day here on the blog.

You can find all of the TME contributors on Twitter using the sidebar on the right or compiled in a handy Twitter list here. Follow along with all meeting news using the hashtag #Evol2016.

Highlights from Monday, June 2oth


Lauren Schiebelhut, Brian Gaylord, Rick Grosberg, Laura Jurgens, Michael Dawson “Genetic and ecological recovery from a massive invertebrate die-off along the central coast of California” — Invertebrate species with the longest larval dispersal period had the greatest recovery and the least genetic population subdivision.

Colin Olito “The evolution of spawning strategies in broadcast spawners” — High fertilization success results in low per gamete returns Large and small males are under different selection regimes.


Kara Jones: One is the loneliest number … hypothesis testing in salamanders. The talk was pretty cool, but the plots of individuals with admixture represented as little squares was so cool, I will shamelessly steal this idea.

Christopher Eckert: Why range limits? The best line of the day: There’s a PhD thesis every 10 cm in California. Oh, California! But, it appears that metapopulations are more important in range limits than niche models.

Rushworth: Maintenance of asexual reproduction in complex natural environments. Sexual, asexual and hybrid asexuals. Really cool system, but one of the most important lines uttered in a talk: we need to understand more about asexual reproduction in natural populations.


Joel McGlothlin: Physiological resistance of garter snakes to toxic prey involves six genes in the voltage-gated sodium channel family. Garter snakes tolerate toxins produced by the newts they prey on thanks, in part, to a gene variant that pre-dates the existence of snakes — great run-through of some very cool evolutionary biology, which is already published: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.04.056

Steven Franks: Selection causes rapid genome-wide evolution in Brassica rapa following a climatic change — a genome-informed update of a paper I’ve cited easily a dozen times: dx.doi.org/10.1073 pnas.0608379104


What our contributors are excited about for Tuesday, June 21st


Justin Havird and Daniel Sloan “Expression, selection, and co-evolution in mitonuclear genes” (Ballroom A, 9:45) Three topics near and dear to my heart.

Jordan Satler and Bryan Carstens “Testing for co-diversification in an ecological community: an example from the Sarracenia alata pitcher plant system” (MR4 10:00) I’m excited to see a friend and colleague talk about this charismatic carnivorous plant.

Katherine Liu “What can we learn from experimental evolution?” (MR9AB 11:30) Very cool things I’m sure! I’m hoping this talk will point to the strengths of experimental evolution and caveats to keep in mind.


Louis-Marie Bobay: The prokaryotic species problem. (10:15am, 8, Species delimitation) I’m interested to see their thoughts on this and how they plan to go about working with prokaryotes.

Matt Rutter: Lessons from 200,000 Arabidopsis phenotypes: the power of unPAK. (9:00am, 6B, Mutation)Interested to see the power of getting undergrads involved in research and collecting data.


Nancy Moran: Harmony vs. discord in relationships of heritable symbionts and their hosts (9:00, Ballroom A, SSE Symposium: Co-evolving genomes: Cooperation and conflict in cytonuclear interactions)

Arthur Weis: Evolutionary Rescue through Assisted Gene Flow: Phenology Makes it Complicated (10:45, MR8, Conservation Biology)

Joel Sachs: Metapopulation dominance and genomic-island acquisition of Bradyrhizobium with superior catabolic capabilities (11:45, Ballroom C, Coevolution 3)

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Live from #Evol2016 – highlights from Sunday and what to see on Monday June 20th

Day two was just as eventful – lots of exciting talks, getting some in-between-talk-fitness in sprinting through the aisles (only to be wrecked by deep fried macaroni and cheese balls at the poster session), and schmoozing with the who’s who in evolutionary biology. Importantly, we at The Molecular Ecologist got to finally meet each other after months of Slack conversations over some authentic Texan BBQ! But not before we did some splendid reporting of all our favorite talks from today, and what we’re pumped for tomorrow – so here’s our round-up from Day 2 of #Evol2016.

Also, don’t forget our meet-up at the Wiley booth in the exhibition hall tomorrow (Monday, June 20th) at 2:15 PM during the afternoon coffee break! Come chat with us, and stay for the drawing of the lucky two numbers (look behind your TME heliboot pin – if you haven’t got yours yet, do stop by the Wiley booth to grab one) that will win some cool TME swag!

TME@Evolution 2016 Come meet us tomorrow at the Wiley booth at 2:15 PM!

TME@Evolution 2016
Come meet us tomorrow at the Wiley booth at 2:15 PM!


David Swofford: Is it time for a new look at quartet-based invariant methods for phylogenetic inference? A nice review of Singular Value Decomposition Scoring and how this method compares to some other recent summary methods for species tree inference.Deren Eaton; Elizabeth Spriggs; Erika Edwards; Michael Donoghue: Tracing the ecological and developmental origins of a replicated radiation in Viburnum using genomic RAD-seq data. A nice talk on phylogeny of a large group of plants based on RADseq, along with some pretty insightful analyses of where RAD datasets work (and where they dont). I think Deren is recruiting students for his new lab as well. Boris Igic; Emma Goldberg: How not to “Test” Dollo’s Law and why, This talk was a short but nice look at how interpretations of Dollo’s have changed over time.


Leo Campagna: Divergent phenotypes despite (mostly) homogeneous genomes: insights from a continental avian radiation. A lucid and engaging explanation of how data from suddenly-ubiquitous “Manhattan Plots” can inform our understanding of the SNPs that distinguish closely related species.

Jason Weir: Ice ages drove explosive diversification of kiwi: a phylogenomic perspective. A welcome southern-hemisphere take on the storied influence of pleistocene glaciation on lineage diversification.

Paul Lewis (Society of Systematic Biologists Presidential Address speaker): Estimating Bayesian Phylogenetic Information Content. I can probably only understand one heavy phylogenetic inference theory talk per day, but he made it easy, describing what seemed to my ears to be an important theoretical advance in the field. Looking forward to reading the paper in full.


Dan Warren gave a clarifying talk on incorporating evolutionary information into niche and distributions models. Seems like the development of niche modelling is at the beginning of an explosion of integration with ideas similar to evolutionary trait reconstruction, but at the same time limited by misconceptions (AUC ain’t everything!).

Ohio State colleague Bryan Carstens wowed a large crowd with “a world record for the most isolation by distance analyses in a single talk”. Scraping data from 1,000s of phylogeographic data sets, Bryan and colleagues developed a pipeline to look for common traits that unite phylogeographic patterns on a huge scale.

Adam Leache’s talk had it all: hybrid zones, clines, cowboys, audience participation. Mitochondrial hybrid cline lags behind its nuclear counterpart after ten years in Arizona fence lizards.


The “Genomics” lightning session was a whirlwind of interesting and diverse talks, from the genomics of hybridization (James Titus-McQuillan, University of Texas at Arlington) to the population genomics of Mexican cavefish (Suzanne McGaugh, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) to the use of genomes to identify and combat antimicrobial resistant gonorrhea (Audrey Abrams McLean, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Jessica Oswald, Louisiana State University: A study of hybridization in three closely related water bird species. The study included a large suite of varied analyses, and ultimately told a great story (and figures were beautiful).


Anna O’Brien: role of plant-rhizosphere interactions and climate in phenotypic divergence of teosinte — Uses an interesting-looking analysis called Driftsel that estimates a G-matrix based on pairwise kinship estimates to identify traits that are more differentiated among populations than expected from drift.

Aniek Ivens: Specificity of multi-level species interactions: a mutualistic network of ants, aphids, mealybugs and their micro biomes — Ivens and her collaborators are assembling a pretty complex network of interacting species using DNA barcoding and microbiome sequencing. It looks like there’s a lot of work to do, but I like the marriage of sequencing and basic fieldwork.

Andrew Whitehead, UC Davis: The genomic landscape of rapid repeated adaptation to human-altered environments — Lots of nice work, drawing together multiple lines of evidence, to identify how killifish have adapted to toxic waste at multiple sites along the US eastern seaboard.


Cynthia Riginos: Isolation by depth in corals: contrasting brooders vs. broadcast spawners (MR10C 0900). Cool pipeline to rid reads of coral symbiont. Its a genome-wide phenomenon of genetic structure with depth in brooders. Depth refugia from increased water temperatures isn’t going to be an option for brooders.

James Mickley: Variation, heritability, & correlated selection in Phlox petal number (Ballroom B 1045). Losing a petal is different than gaining a petal. Different mechanisms drive gaining and losing petals.

Janna Fierst: Decontaminating de novo assemblies with machine learning (MR6B 1550): The session had gotten a little behind, but cool ideas about how to be able to detect HGT and the fact pipelines now available would get rid of real HGT.

Emma Goldberg (Island plant breeding systems: broad support for Baker’s Law MR6A 1500): Baker’s Law applies … how awesome since I’ll be talking about this tomorrow in seaweeds (shameless plug!!).


I had a wonderful time walking around and chatting with all the amazingly talented poster presenters. Here are some of my favorites:

Signatures of introgression in natural replicated hybrid zones – Gaston Jofre; John Blazier; Gil Rosenthal; Molly Schumer; Alisa Sedghifar; Peter Andolfatto – a very cool system of hybrid zones of swordtail fish in Mexico, and promising in its findings of thermal adaptive genes.

Skeletons in the closet: the Vertebrate collections at the Natural History Museum, London. Access, relevance and opportunities – Natalie Cooper; Jeffrey Streicher – so much to do! Don’t miss a chance to chat with these wonderful folks on their specimen collections.

Microbiome analyses of acorn barnacles from habitat extremes of a tidal stress gradient Bianca Brown; Rebecca Elyanow; Joaquin Nunez; David Rand – some real cool microbiome work, promising to build acorn barnacles as the new-normal in studying thermal stress adaptation.

What we are looking forward to tomorrow:


Rodney Dyer: Landscape epigenetics (8:30am, 9C, Molecular Ecology 1) — I’m a big fan of his takes on landscape and popgen methods, so this simple yet evocative title is a must-see for me.

Lauren O’Connell: Physiology of toxin sequestration in poison frogs (9:00am, 10B, Ecological Genetics 1) — The relationship between behavior, mimicry, and chemical ecology in poison dart frogs is so fascinating. Excited to potentially learn about connections between the toxicity of these frogs and the physiological mechanisms that facilitate it.

Natalia Bayona Vasquez: How to process 1500 RADseq samples in a week for $6/sample (2:00pm, 9C, Molecular ecology/genomics) — Sigh, you got me. I want to know how.


Kevin Thornton: Population genetics of polygenic adaptation (8:30, gods help me, in MR6B, Pop. genetics: inference of selection) — Not sure whether I expect this talk to crush all my plans for future work, or give me new hope.

Anne Royer: Strong plant-pollinator association doesn’t explain disruptive selection and reproductive isolation in a Joshua tree hybrid zone (9:15, MR8, Speciation / hybridization) — I’m going to flagrantly plug this one as the culmination of years of work with the species that occupied the biggest chunk of my dissertation research. Plus I happen to know the results are cool.

Steven Franks: Selection causes rapid genome-wide evolution in Brassica rapa following a climatic change (11, MR10B, Ecological genetics 2) — I’m excited to see new work by these folks, and of course it’s genomics of plant adaptation to climate.


Christopher Eckert (MR10B 0845): Strong genetic differentiation but not local adaptation towards a geographical range limit. Range expansions and genetic structure is a great way to start the day.

Denis Roze (MR6B 1300): Selection for sex in a quantitive trait model. Evolution of sex questions, I’m in.

Catherine Rushworth (MR6B): The maintenance of asexual reproduction in complex natural environments. I’m sensing a theme in what I like to listen to …

Martin Schilling (MR8 1545): Gene flow and mating system variation in the face of facultative asexuality. Yes, definitely a theme.


D. Luke Mahler; Travis Ingram: Pattern and process in the comparative study of convergence. This should be a good overview of methods for detecting phenotypic convergence

Claudia Solis-Lemus; Cecile Ane: Quartet-based inference of phylogenetic networks. Quartet-based methods are being widely used (something I wasnt 100% privy to), and this will likely add some important info to the mix.

Nathan Upham; Walter Jetz; Jacob Esselstyn: A complete species-level phylogeny of Mammalia using a supermatrix of 31 genes. Hoping for some new insights on the status of the mammal tree of life.


Nate Upham’s talk: “A complete species-level phylogeny of Mammalia using a supermatrix of 31 genes.” I’m hoping it will challenge what we think we know about mammal phylogeny. Natalia Bayona Vásquez: “How to process 1500 RADseq samples in a week for $6/sample”, because who doesn’t want to do that?? (answer: the bioinformatician who has to analyze it all)


Saraah Schaack: The contributions of cell size and cell number to body size Mike Harvey: Contrasting evolutionary histories between birds of upland and floodplain forest in the Amazon

Rena Schweizer: Evidence for environmentally driven functional variation in gray wolves


One is the loneliest number: genomic data reveals morphologically distinct salamander species” are actually phenotypes: Kara Jones; David Weisrock – just when you thought salamanders couldn’t get any weirder…(MR3, 8:30 AM)

Population genetics of polygenic adaptation: Kevin Thornton – an incredibly easy title for an incredibly difficult topic. Excited to see Kevin’s work (this one also happens to be at 8:30 AM in MR6B, so do watch the #Evol2016 YouTube channel for frequent uploads of talks that you’ve missed!)

Also at 8:30 AM (sighhh): Landscape epigenetics – Rodney Dyer, Chitra Seshadri.

See you all tomorrow at the Wiley booth, 2:15-2:45 PM!

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Live from #Evol2016 – highlights from Saturday and what to see on Sunday June 19th

The Molecular Ecologist team is all over this year’s Evolution meeting in Austin, Texas.

As part of our coverage of the meeting, we will be previewing presentations we’re excited about and recapping the highlights of each day here on the blog.

You can find all of the TME contributors on Twitter using the sidebar on the right or compiled in a handy Twitter list here. Follow along with all meeting news using the hashtag #Evol2016.

Highlights from Saturday, June 18th


Longfei Shu and Tamara Haselkorn had back-to-back talks about a social amoeba that “farms” edible bacteria with the assistance of a symbiotic Burkholderia species. The natural history is http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09668“>very cool.

Continue reading

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Live from #Evol2016 – Saturday June 18th

The Molecular Ecologist team is all over this year’s Evolution meeting in Austin, Texas.

You can find all of the TME contributors on Twitter using the sidebar on the right or compiled in a handy Twitter list here. Follow along with all meeting news using the hashtag #Evol2016.

As part of our coverage of the meeting, we will be previewing presentations we’re excited about and recapping the highlights of each day here on the blog. To kick things off, here are some of the talks we’ve bookmarked for day 1 of the conference:


Mark Margres: Quantity, not quality: rapid adaptation to local prey proceeds through venom- gene expression changes in rattlesnakes (11:15, Adaptation/genomics 2, MR9AB) — Fun natural history, rapid adaptation, genomics, species interactions. Heck, yes.

Naomi Pierce: Ant symbioses: from parasitism to mutualism (1:00, ASN Spotlight: Evolution of species interactions 1, Ballroom A) — of course I want to hear Naomi Pierce talk about ant symbioses. Unfortunately it’s during the session in which I’m presenting.

Moises Exposito-Alonso: The 1001 genomes of Arabidopsis thaliana reveal a deep climatic adaptation history driven by summer drought (1:00, Adaptation/genomics 3, MR9AB) — This is leading off my session, and it’s one I’d hate to have missed anyway. Looks like a lot of data, and I want to see how they use it.


Sarah Barfield & Mikhail Matz: Genomics of local adaptation in corals (Acropora millepora) from the Great Barrier Reef (9:00am MR9AB) — The Matz Lab is based here in UT Austin and I’m looking forward to seeing some local science on marine inverts.

Laura Lagomarsino, Fabien Condamine, Andreas Mulch, Alexandre Antonelli, Charles Davis: The abiotic and biotic drivers of rapid diversification in Andean bellflowers (Campanulaceae) (9:15am Ballroom A) — Laura recently accepted a TT job at LSU and she rocked her job talk so I’m sure her presentation here will impress.

David Plachetzki: Phylogenomics reveals an ancient metazoan sensory toolkit and a more recent chemosensitivity paradigm shift in the ancestor of protostomes (3:30pm MR10A) — As someone who works on sponges, I can’t resist a talk on metazoan evolution


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Greetings from Austin, with a look towards Evolution 2016.

As the yearly conference season approaches full swing, the minds of many evolution-oriented scientists turn, naturally, to Evolution. The Evolution conference is the annual conclave of three of the discipline’s foremost societies (American Society of Naturalists, Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Systematic Biologists), and it routinely delivers a wealth of new information on advances across the diverse field of evolutionary biology. In this post, I provide a brief glance towards the start of Evolution 2016.

Austin, here we (evolutionary biologists) come!

Evolution 2016 convenes officially this week in Austin, Texas. Besides the bats, boots and bbq (each a draw in its own right), we expect the strong tradition of exciting evolutionary research to continue here. However, a number of preconference proceedings deserve equal attention. For example, the conference is kicking off informally this year with the Phylogenetics Symposium (16 June), sponsored by Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB). This most recent iteration of the symposium continues its focus on newer methods for phylogenetic inference under various evolutionary scenarios and with the use of genome-scale data.

SSB is also sponsoring the Phylogenomics Software School, which on Friday (17 June) will provide hands-on training for some of the software programs highlighted in Thursday’s Symposium. The School is actually one of several thematic workshops that day. For example, American Society of Naturalists is also sponsoring a Science Communication workshop focused on, well, you guessed it. (I’m attending, with dreams of emerging armed with a perfectly polished elevator pitch). In addition, on Friday afternoon, the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) is sponsoring a Diverse Careers workshop “to point young professionals towards the first steps of personal career exploration.”

To kick off Evolution 2016 in earnest, Carl Zimmer will speak RE: his 2016 Stephen Jay Gould prize from SSE. Zimmer’s contributions to public understanding of evolutionary science are extensive, and include a number of award-winning books and regular contributions to both New York Times and National Geographic. With the Gould prize, Zimmer joins venerable ranks of other great biologists and science writers. His talk will center on new insights into the evolution of humans as revealed using genomic data. This promises to be a great beginning to Evolution 2016.

Finally, be sure to check Molecular Ecologist throughout the conference for updates from Austin!

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