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!


About Arun Sethuraman

I am a computational biologist, and I build statistical models and tools for population genetics. I am particularly interested in studying the dynamics of structured populations, genetic admixture, and ancestral demography.
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