How do you unite the stage and actors of the evolutionary play?

When you are forced to give your one sentence, off-the-cuff response to “what kind of scientist are you?”, who do you become?

A landscape geneticist? Community geneticist? Landscape epidemiologist?

A new opinion in Trends in Ecology and Evolution by Brian HandWinsor Lowe, and others calls for less distinction between these identities to answer contemporary and compelling questions in evolution and ecology.

From Hand et al. 2015

From Hand et al. 2015

The consideration of both biotic (think community genetics/ecology) and abiotic (think landscape genetics) factors and their effects on patterns of genetic variation are often pursued as part of separate investigations. Hand, Lowe, and their coauthors make the comparisons to G. Evelyn Hutchinson’s “Ecological Theater and the Evolutionary Play”, suggesting that the actors (the species and their interactions) and the stage (the abiotic environment) are not considered together often enough.

Landscape genetics and community genetics have developed as largely-independent disciplines, growing in popularity and importance, but without capitalizing on the complementary nature of the two approaches.

The sort of data required to ask questions in the framework proposed is a serious challenge (adaptive and neutral genetic data, geographic information, demographics, etc.). The authors point towards burgeoning field of metagenomics as leading the way in some of these new ways of thinking, but there are certainly labs who read this blog that bridge these interdisciplinary divides already. What remains to be seen is if these researchers can effectively roll all of these techniques together under the common title of “Landscape Community Genetics”.

Hand B.K., Lowe W.H., Kovach R.P., Muhlfeld C.C. & Luikart G. (2015). Landscape community genomics: understanding eco-evolutionary processes in complex environments, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.01.005

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About Rob Denton

I'm a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UConn. I'm most interested in understanding the evolutionary/ecological consequences of strange reproduction in salamanders (unisexual Ambystoma). Topics I'm likely to write about: population and landscape genetics, mitonuclear interactions, polyploidy, and reptiles/amphibians.
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