Symposia Overview

The full SMBE 2019 symposia programme is listed below. The programme details on the organisers, invited faculty and an overview of the selected symposia for SMBE 2019. The details are listed as of January 2019 and are subject to change.

The full programme including timings for the symposia will be added to the website in due course.

Organisers
Michael Brockhurst, University of Sheffield, UK

Craig Maclean, University of Oxford, UK

Alan Macnally, University of Birmingham, UK

Invited speakers
Eduardo Rocha, Institut Pasteur, France Tal Dagan,

Christian-Albrechts Universitat Kiel, Germany

Symposium overview
Most genes in bacterial genomes have been acquired by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and HGT plays a central role in bacterial innovation, as exemplified by transfer of antibiotic resistance genes in pathogens. New experimental and bioinformatic approaches have led to fundamentally new insights into the eco-evolutionary processes determining HGT dynamics in microbial communities over the last 5 years. The interplay of the ecology of mobile genetic elements, rapid evolution, and selection acting on horizontally acquired genes shape the dissemination of novel traits in communities. Meanwhile, HGT can be limited by ecological, genetic or physiological barriers preventing access to or integration of heterologous genes. Continued progress in this rapidly changing field will require further integration of genomic and experimental approaches to HGT, and our symposium will catalyse this by bringing together leading experimental and computational biologists.

Organisers
David Anderson, University of Calgary, Canada

Michael Harms, University of Oregon, USA

Invited speakers
Marc Ostermeier, Johns Hopkins, USA

Joseph W Thornton, University of Chicago, USA

Symposium overview
Mutations alter macromolecules, which in turn alter phenotype and fitness. As a result, the biochemical features of macromolecules such as thermodynamic stability, enzymatic activity, and function can strongly shape the evolutionary process. The functional biochemistry of macromolecules also often leads to epistasis – the non-additive effect of mutations on fitness – which can in turn impact the evolvability of that macromolecule. This session will examine the interface of biochemistry, epistasis, and the evolutionary processes. How does the biochemistry of macromolecules, and the epistasis it can produce, constrain and enable evolution? What can analyses of epistasis tell us about biochemistry? Can mechanistic biochemical models help us understand of and mathematically model epistasis? To address these questions, we will bring together a diverse group of experimental and theoretical evolutionary biochemists do discuss their ongoing work.

Organisers
Catherine Walton, University of Manchester, UK

Susanne Shultz, University of Manchester, UK

Invited speakers

Professor Ilik Saccheri, University of Liverpool, UK

Professor Nora Besansky, University of Notre Dame, USA

Symposium overview
Environmental change from anthropogenic activities such as land use change, climate change, and the introduction of novel chemicals or pesticides provides opportunities for evolution on contemporary time scales. Examples of recent and ongoing evolution include resistance to pesticides and antibiotics, changes in host specificity of pathogens or their vectors, phenotypic matching with environmental change or phenology changes linked to climate change. Characterising the evolutionary processes underpinning contemporary evolution requires the ability to distinguish phenotypic plasticity from genetically-based adaptation and the use of well characterised portions of the genome to determine the contribution of factors such as genetic architecture and gene flow. This symposium will highlight examples of contemporary evolution across different taxonomic groups.

Organisers
Daniela Delneri, University of Manchester, UK

Joseph Schacherer, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Strasburg, France

Invited speaker
Jon Houseley, Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK

Csaba Pál, Biological Research Centre, Synthetic and Systems Biology Unit, Szeged, Hungary

Symposium overview
Scientists have been interested for long time in understanding the genetic traits behind plastic phenotypes which are able of diversified fitness, physiology and morphology under different environmental challenges. The advances in epigenomics and genetic architecture of complex traits, allow now to explore more comprehensively the interplay between environmental cues, plasticity, and adaptation mechanisms. In this symposium we are bringing together the body of scientific work addressing the role of plastic responses in adaptation to new environments and in evolution of phenotypes, including current molecular (i.e. polymorphisms and allele-switch), genomic (i.e. epigenetic and transcriptional landscape, quantitative trait loci, population genomics), and phenotypic (i.e. fitness landscape) knowledge on the topic.

Organisers
David Alvarez-Ponce, University of Nevada, Reno, United States

David Liberles, United States

Invited speaker
Andreas Wagner, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Symposium overview
Proteins rarely work in isolation. On the contrary, they often operate as pieces of complex systems, including cells and organisms. As such, their function is mediated, and/or regulated, through interactions with other proteins. The complexity of inter-molecular interactions within a cell can be represented in the form of various networks (including protein–protein interaction networks, metabolic networks, signaling networks, and transcriptional regulatory networks) with underlying interactions described by Michaelis-Menten kinetics for enzymes and a Boltzmann Distribution for binding events. In the last years, draft versions of such large-scale maps have started to become available, allowing a systems-level exploration of the cell, although quantitative biochemical and biophysical data underpinning function on these maps has lagged behind. Understanding how proteins operate and evolve as parts of a system is not only an exciting endeavor, but also one that can aid applications such as drug discovery and metabolic engineering. From the point of view of molecular evolution, understanding proteins’ patterns of evolution may benefit from considering their context and sensitivity to perturbation in the networks of which they are part. For instance, it is known that proteins acting at the center of molecular networks (i.e., those that interact with many other proteins) are more selectively constrained (and thus more evolutionarily conserved) than those acting at the periphery. Ultimately, when selection acts at a higher level than mutation, there is typically a many to one mapping of genotypes to phenotype and dynamics can be driven by mutation-selection-drift balance. In this symposium we will explore how proteins and networks evolve both when there is negative selection to preserve pathway function and when there is positive selection to alter it.

Organisers
R. Tucker Gilman, University of Manchester, UK

David Robertson, University of Glasgow, UK

Invited speakers
Sylvain Gandon, Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France

Georg K. Gerber, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA


Symposium overview
There is increasing evidence that microbiota can have important fitness consequences for their host organisms. In humans for example, changes in the species composition of the gut and respiratory microbiomes have been linked to conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, allergy and asthma, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. This has sparked intense interest in understanding and ultimately controlling the ecology of the microbiota. However, interactions between the viruses, bacteria and other microbes in the microbiota depend on traits that can evolve on ecologically relevant timescales, and thus the ecology (including co-occurrences, cooperation, competitive exclusion and phage-bacteria associations) of the microbiota must be understood in the context of the evolution of its component parts. Achieving this understanding will require a combined effort on the part of empirical, computational and theoretical researchers. This symposium will bring together researchers from diverse fields to consider how ecological interactions such as viral predation and microbial competition shape evolution in the microbiota, and how we can predict and ultimately control the trajectories of high dimensional ecological systems comprised of rapidly evolving species.

Organisers
Lucy van Dorp, University College London, UK

Liam Shaw, University of Oxford,UK

Invited speakers
Laura Hug, University of Waterloo, Canada

Christopher Quince, University of Warwick, UK

Symposium overview
Metagenomics, the untargeted sequencing of microbial communities from patient or environmental samples, offers the opportunity to study the physiological roles, evolutionary significance and life histories of co-existing species. In addition to clinical applications, such as tracking the spread of resistance-carrying plasmids that move across bacterial species and identifying novel pathogenic agents, metagenomic data is also increasingly being used to enrich our understanding of evolution at ever changing timescales. Metagenomic data is now being generated from sediment and ice cores, from both modern and historical salivary and gut microbiomes, and as a by-product of shotgun sequencing for ancient DNA, producing significant insights into the past: natural history, cultural practices, and disease burden. Metagenomic data is large and complex. While tools exist to classify metagenomic reads they have mixed success, particularly in degraded or complex samples. Further, analysing metagenomic data requires the synthesis of tools from phylogenetics, population genetics, and community ecology, together with a meaningful dialogue between researchers across the diverse disciplines where metagenomic data is being gathered. In this symposium we aim to discuss some of the challenges in extracting meaningful evolutionary insights from metagenomics, as well as presenting the wide-ranging applications of metagenomic approaches

Organisers
Shuqing Xu, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster, Germany

Philipp M. Schlüter, Institute of Botany, University of Hohenheim, Germany

Invited speakers
Martin Lercher, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany

Anne Osbourn, John Innes Centre, United Kingdom

Symposium overview
Metabolic networks are the building blocks of all life on earth. Elucidating their evolutionary mechanisms is not only essential for understanding how traits and species diversify and evolve in nature, but also important for the development of human society. For example, evolutionary change in specialized plant metabolism has resulted in extremely diverse metabolites that mediate sophisticated fitness-relevant ecological interactions between plants and animals, some of which are also of significant nutritional and medical values to human society. Recent developments in high-throughput sequencing and metabolomics have provided unique opportunities to combine genomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic profiling to reveal the evolutionary processes and mechanisms by which metabolic networks originate and diversify. Together with rapidly developing gene editing tools, these approaches will accelerate the development of metabolic network engineering in different organisms, from crops to bacteria. This symposium aims to bring scientists in this research area together and foster discussions on identifying the key knowledge gaps and proposing their solutions.

Organisers
Aaron Sams & Markus Stetter, Embark Veterinary, Inc. United States

Jae Young Choi, New York University, United States

Invited speakers
Zachary Lippman, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, United States

Elaine Ostrander, National Institutes of Health, United States

Symposium overview
The advent of human-directed domestication marked a fundamental shift in human culture and demography. Though the origin and evolutionary process of domestication has been studied in a population genetics framework for decades, many questions remain. Today, understanding the evolutionary aspects of domestication, the impacts of domestication on genome biology, and perhaps most importantly the ecological impacts of past and ongoing domestication, are of supreme importance given the current state of global ecology and climate. Currently, hundreds, even thousands of individuals, cultivars, or populations are either undergoing sequencing or have been genome sequenced across many different domesticated organisms. Additionally, high-throughput sequencing and cutting-edge genetic engineering methods are being combined with population genetics to understand the domestication process. Domesticated species, their wild relatives, and species affected by domestication such as plant and animal pests represent powerful model organisms to study the widespread effects of artificial selection. In this symposium our aim is to bring cutting edge research in domestication genomics together with cases from both the plant and animal kingdoms. We aim to present speakers with various “–omics” data to address the evolutionary process of domestication, including, but not limited to, the driving forces and the potential costs of domestication.

Organisers
Maria C. Rivera Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

Janet Sinsheimer Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, USA

James R. Garey, University of South Florida, USA

Invited speakers
Prof. William Martin, University of Dusseldorf, Germany

Prof. Max Telford, University College London, UK

Symposium overview
Throughout his career, Professor James A. Lake has been a highly original thinker who has made great headway in solving seemingly intractable questions. His scientific inquiries have shed light on fundamental evolutionary questions expanding all kingdoms of life. Via methodological innovations, his research has successfully connected phylogenetic inference to the molecular, cellular, and developmental events that shaped genome evolution. His ideas are now broadly accepted by the scientific community; including laying the foundation of the “New Animal Phylogeny” by defining the protostomes clades Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa; identifying the informational and operational genes leading to the complexity hypothesis; and proposing the ring of life hypothesis to describe the symbiosis resulting in the origin of the eukaryotes. In this symposium we will touch on Dr. Lake’s past and recent contributions and then feature work by researchers who are developing fresh approaches to those questions that his work has impacted. These questions include but are not limited to understanding: the evolution of the metazoans; the role of horizontal gene transfer in shaping genome evolution and its confounding effect on phylogenetic inference, e.g. inferring the rings of life; the extent and nature of early prokaryotic endosymbiosis; and the root of the tree of life.

Organisers
Doris Bachtrog University of California, Berkeley, USA

Nitin Phadnis, University of Utah, USA

Invited speakers
Andrea Betancourt, UK

Mia Levine, Penn Arts & Sciences, USA

Symposium overview
The idea that genetic conflict is a powerful force in the evolution of genomes is deeply rooted in evolutionary genetics. Recently, however, the marriage of advanced sequencing and molecular techniques with evolutionary theory is providing a burst of new insights into the mechanisms of how genomes and fundamental cellular processes evolve. These developments not only make sense of many examples of recurrent substitutions in genes involved in fundamental cellular machinery in the light of evolutionary conflicts, but also illuminate the molecular mechanisms of the conflicts themselves. In this symposium, we highlight the latest case studies of such conflicts, including the exciting new studies on centromeric drive, segregation distorters, transposable elements, B chromosomes, sexual conflicts, parent-offspring conflicts, etc. The genetic conflict symposium will appeal to a broad audience, from molecular biologists who focus on in-depth molecular functional analyses of cases of recurrent positive selection to population geneticists who unveil evidence of rapid evolution in surprising places and speciation geneticists uncovering the role of evolutionary conflicts in the origins of new species. Together, these studies highlight the most exciting developments in solving long-standing questions in molecular evolution.

Organisers 
Rui Borges, Vetmeduni, Austria

Carolin Kosiol, St Andrews University, UK

Invited speakers
Maria Anisimova, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland

Nicolas Galtier, Université de Montpellier, France

Symposium overview
Natural selection is a key process in evolutionary biology, and despite being a well-established concept in evolutionary theory, detecting and measuring selection signatures genome-wide remains still challenging. In the last two decades, many probabilistic models have helped us to investigate different types such as purifying, positive or balancing selection. However, the debate on how complex these models should be to adequately describe the selection mechanisms while considering confounding factors such as demography and fixation biases (e.g., biased gene conversion) is still ongoing. Recently, approaches to detect signatures of selection that are based on machine learning techniques have been developed. Deep-learning algorithms generally incorporate fewer explicit assumptions about the genetic signatures of natural selection than mechanistic models and were shown useful for discovering subtle patterns hidden in large amounts of data. However, these methods cannot be used for inference are rather descriptive and less suitable for predictions. In this symposium, we will bring together researchers of both mechanistic and machine learning approaches, and we hope to enable a discussion that will benefit the evolutionary community.

Organisers
Evan Irving-Pease, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Laurent Frantz, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

Greger Larson, University of Oxford, UK

Invited speakers
Elinor Karlsson Broad Institute, USA

Robin Allaby, University of Warwick, UK

Symposium overview
Given its interest for evolutionary biologists, domestication has proven to be one of the most prolific fields in the discipline. However, despite decades of research, domestication remains an elusive process. Many fundamental questions remain unanswered, such as the geographic and temporal origin of domestic species, the importance of bottlenecks during domestication, the role of adaptive introgression with wild populations, the strength of artificial selection applied to specific traits (e.g. behaviour), the genetic architecture of those traits and the cost of domestication. Recent advances in population genomics, genome sequencing and palaeogenomics, however, have provided fascinating and novel insights into these questions. This symposium will bring together researchers working across the breadth of plant and animal domestication, including ancient and modern perspectives, to highlight the latest genomic insights into the patterns and processes of domestication.

Organisers
Carina Schlebusch, Uppsala University, Sweden SciLifeLab, Uppsala, Sweden University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

Hiba Babiker, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany

Invited speakers
Etienne Patin, Institute Pasteur, Paris, France

Luisa Perreira, Universid ade do Porto, Portugal

Symposium overview
In the last few decades, genetics played an increasingly important role in the inference of human history and our understanding of human evolution. Genetics helped to establish Africa as the birthplace of anatomically modern humans. Moreover, genetic studies provided conclusive information that helped to answer challenging questions, such as the “Out-of-Africa” migration of modern humans and genetic relationships among diverse linguistic, geographical and cultural groups. The history of human populations in Africa is complex and includes various demographic events that influenced patterns of genetic variation across the continent. Genetic studies based on mitochondrial-DNA, Y-chromosomes, autosomal markers, whole genomes, and ancient DNA contributed to unraveling the genetic sub-structure of African populations and populations of African descent. Through these studies, it became evident that the African subsistence practices shaped the genomes of African populations and the distribution of current-day Africans. With the increased availability of full genomic data from diverse African populations and prehistoric Africans, the next few years will be an exciting period for human population genetic research in Africa. In this symposium, we aim to assemble findings from the field of genetics that contributed to reveal population history and patterns of genetic diversity and adaptation in Africa.

Organisers
Georgii Bazykin, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology,Russia

Jay Storz, University of Nebraska, USA

Invited
speakers
Fyodor Kondrashov, Institute of Science and Technology, Austria

Claudia Bank, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal

Symposium overview
A question of central importance in evolutionary genetics concerns how pathways and directions of evolutionary change are affected by the mapping function between genotype and phenotype. This question can now be addressed in earnest. The advent of new experimental methods based on deep mutational scanning has enabled direct high-throughput measurements of fitness for vast libraries of mutant genotypes. In parallel, new theoretical research predicts how the fitness landscape should shape trajectories of evolutionary change. Reconstruction of the roads actually taken by evolution, and comparisons to the roads not taken, allows us to test hypotheses about the factors that influence pathways of change. Finally, patterns of sequence divergence at large evolutionary timescales can provide an independent view of the fitness landscape shape and dynamics. With this symposium, we will provide a comprehensive perspective on how this combination of approaches deepens our understanding of evolutionary pathways over different timescales.

Organiser
Xianfa Xie, Virginia State University, USA

Invited speakers
Laura Landweber, Columbia University, USA

Debashish Bhattacharya, Rutgers University, USA

Symposium overview
While most extensively studied among all eukaryotes, macroscopic animals, plants, and fungi represent only a few branches in the big tree of eukaryotic life. The vast cellular, genomic, and ecological diversity is found in microbial eukaryotes, which however have been understudied so far. But existing studies of microbial eukaryotes have revealed some very interesting molecular processes and genomic evolution pattern, for example in ciliates, while some other genomic studies of unicellular eukaryotes have shed new lights on some key questions in the evolution of plants, animals, and fungi. This symposium is intended to bring together outstanding researchers in this burgeoning field to showcase the most recent advances in the study of microbial eukaryotic genomic evolution and for researchers in the field to exchange research ideas, which hopefully will inspire more researchers into this interesting and important field.

Organisers
Pauline Scanlan, University College Cork, Ireland

Ville Friman, University of York, UK

Invited speakers
Prof. Angus Buckling, University of Exeter, UK

Dr Jo Fothergill, University of Liverpool, UK

Symposium overview
Experimental microbial evolution has typically used a single species of microorganism or a limited combination of microorganisms grown under simplified in vitro conditions to test general evolutionary theory as well as study the mode and tempo of a wide range of evolutionary processes. However, in natural ecosystems species typically evolve within diverse microbial communities that are themselves embedded in a potentially complex and variable abiotic environment (e.g. soil, rhizosphere and human body). In recognition of this, researchers are increasingly developing and experimenting with more complex in vitro microbial communities and validating these studies using naturally occurring microbial populations and communities to better understand microbial evolution in the real-world. Moreover, the advent of low cost, high through-put sequencing has facilitated incorporation of genomic analysis for the study of eco-evolutionary dynamics and species evolution at the molecular level in complex ecosystems. This symposium will showcase some recent research highlights exploring microbial evolution in complex environments at the phenotypic, genotypic and ecosystem level and generate considerable interest among biologists from a wide range of disciplines.       

Organisers
Neil Gemmell, University of Otago, New Zealand

Florencia Camus, University College London, UK

Invited speakers
Hansong Ma, Gurdon Institute, UK

Dan Sloane, Colorado State University, USA

Symposium overview
Interactions between the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes support cellular metabolism and function across all Eukaryotes. Once thought to be ‘evolutionary bystanders’, mitochondrial genomes are increasingly recognised to have played a key role in the origin of major features of eukaryotic life. Furthermore, the interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes have been found to modulate mitochondrial function and organismal metabolic performance; factors that have downstream consequences on many life-history traits. A growing body of work from natural populations also indicate a potentially important role for these interactions in compromised hybrid fitness and the process of speciation. Finally, mito-nuclear interactions shape the evolution of both genomes; thus these interactions impact most (if not all) levels of biological organisation. Our goal in proposing this symposium is to bring together molecular evolutionary biologists studying mito-nuclear dynamics from different fields of expertise to broaden understanding of the importance of these interactions and encourage new work on this important topic. Our symposium will particularly welcome submissions that use integrative and multidisciplinary efforts, across a range of taxa and levels of biological organisation to examine how mito-nuclear interactions shape evolutionary trajectories.

Organisers
Kelley Harris, University of Washington, United States    

Susanne Pfeifer, Arizona State University, United States

Invited speakers
Aylwyn Scally, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Peter Keightley, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Symposium overview
There is a long-standing interest in the study of mutations. Knowledge of how quickly mutations accumulate is critical to many areas of evolutionary genetics, ranging from the quest to improve evolutionary inference to the genetic basis of disease to the advancement of our understanding of the chronology of human evolution to the characterization of relationships among populations and species. While there is considerable uncertainty in historical mutation rate estimates obtained from indirect methods, recent advances in high-throughput sequencing have made it possible to directly estimate mutation rates from parent-offspring trios and multi-generation pedigrees. As a result of these methodological breakthroughs, novel insights into the genomic distribution of mutations as well as potential underlying molecular mechanisms have recently emerged in a number of different species. This symposium will provide a forum to discuss novel scientific findings in this timely area of research.

Organisers
Roman Arguello, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Lucia Prieto-Godino, The Francis Crick Institute, England

Invited speakers
Ralf J. Sommer Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany

Sylvie Rétaux, Evo Neuroscience Paris-Saclay Institute CNRS, France

Symposium overview
Underlying the diversity of animal sensory capabilities and behaviors are fascinating differences that have evolved within their nervous systems. While there has been steady progress in understanding foundational neurophysiology principles in model organisms, only recently have the tools and resources become available to study neural circuit evolution among diverse species. These tools and approaches are now allowing comparative studies aimed at integrating questions about fine-scale molecular changes, neural architecture modifications, and behavioral evolution. As a result of these rapidly developing methodologies and growing applications, a symposium on the molecular basis of neural circuit and behavioral evolution would provide an opportune time to share recent results from these research avenues. Our goal with the symposium will be to highlight interdisciplinary work existing at the interface between evolutionary thought (theory and inference-based analyses) and functional characterization (neurogenetics, molecular biology). We believe that the symposium will be of general interest to the conference attendees as it has great potential to be informative on fundamental evolutionary topics including the relationship between genotypic and phenotypic variation, the genetics of adaptation, speciation biology, and behavior.

Organisers
Fritz Sedlazeck, Baylor College of Medicine, USA

Daniel Jeffares, University of York, UK

Invited speakers
Amanda Larracuente, University of Rochester, USA   

Thomas Sasani, University of Utah, USA

Symposium overview
Recent advances in sequencing technology are producing new insights and creating opportunities for understanding genome evolution in greater detail than has previously been possible. But these technologies also present new analysis challenges. Numerous algorithms and software have been developed to process short read sequencing data; however, short reads have limited power to analyse highly repetitive regions, detect novel isoforms and large structural variation, and to distinguish haplotypes in complex regions of the genome.     New technologies, including long or linked reads and optical maps, make it possible to reveal cryptic genetic variation and study repetitive genomic regions that were previously intractable. We have only recently begun to appreciate the impact of structural variations on evolution, gene expression, isoform changes, and population structure. The goal of this symposium is to bring together evolutionary biologists with cutting-edge applications of new sequencing technologies to important questions in evolutionary genetics. Topics will cover a diversity of study systems and highlight new discoveries on adaptation, and genome variation and evolution.

Organisers
Omar Rota Stabelli, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy       

Heloise Dufour, Cercle FSER, France

Rita Ponce, Polytechnic Institute of Setubal, Portugal

Invited speakers
Carole Jahme, Fellow of the RSA, UK     

Telmo Pievani, University of Padova, Italy

Symposium overview
A key aspect of current research in the field of Evolution is the proper dissemination to stakeholders, politicians, general public, and also other scientists. Successful outreaching may help solve various societal issues particularly in an era of fake news: scientifically literate public are for example more supportive of the public funding of science and of scientifically driven practices such conservation policies. Unfortunately, scientists often fail to properly reach the public (or even a general academic audience) particularly for what concerns molecular evolutionary concepts. The communication of Molecular Evolution concepts is extremely important, but can be challenging. With this symposium we would like to inspire the SMBE audience on how to do better outreach by providing with examples of great communicators and outreach practices on a variety of molecular evolutionary topics. We aim at providing concrete tools and examples on how to best communicate research by selecting talks from proven excellent SMBE outreachers, by pointing toward pitfalls that should be avoided, and to good practices that should be followed. We also aim at providing with examples of alternative ways than conference talks such as public engagement, citizen science, media and social networking. We welcome contributions from enthusiast molecular evolutionists, ranging from student with new outreaching unconventional ideas to mature academics with long history of communication.

Organisers
Nikos Vakirlis, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland  

Christian Rödelsperger  Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany

Eve Wurtele, Iowa State University,  USA

Invited speakers
Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, University of Pittsburgh, USA 

Erich Bornberg-Bauer, University of Münster, Germany

Symposium overview
Genome sequencing efforts throughout all domains of life have revealed gene duplication to be one of the main drivers of phenotypic diversification.  However, the same sequencing projects have also shown that up to one-third of genes in a given genome lack homology in any other species; these have been called novel, taxonomically-restricted, or orphan genes. The absence of homology in other species impedes any functional inference  and challenges the understanding of gene origin.  The past several years has seen growing interest and progress in research on these genes.     In this symposium, we will bring together researchers studying molecular evolution, developmental biology, population genetics, and bioinformatics, to discuss fundamental questions of the origin and nature of these novel genic sequences.  What are the mechanisms by which novel genes arise? How do different genomes harness these mechanisms? What types of functions can novel genes assume and do they carry adaptive potential? At what level do novel genes interact with molecular networks and is that sufficient for their retention? How is this reflected at the level of evolutionary constraint between populations and species?

Organisers
Tomas Flouri, University College London, United Kingdom           

Mario Dos Reis Barros, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

Paschalia Kapli, University College London, United Kingdom

Invited speakers
Ziheng Yang, University College London, United Kingdom            

Anne D. Yoder, Duke University, USA

Symposium overview
The coalescent has played a pivotal role in molecular population genetics and has been widely used for estimating population genetic parameters (i.e., population size, migration and recombination rates) from sequence data. The natural extension to multiple species, the multispecies coalescent (MSC), has marked a paradigm shift in molecular systematics by using gene-tree heterogeneity across the genome as a source of information for species-tree inference. Using MSC methods appears important when the species arose through a radiative speciation process, perhaps accompanied by migration or introgression between species, because those processes generate short branches in the species tree and thus widespread species tree-gene tree discordance.  In the past 10 years, heuristic and full likelihood (such as Bayesian MCMC) approaches under the MSC have been developed. In this symposium we will discuss the latest advances in MSC methods, such as the development of new computational MCMC algorithms, improvements to summary methods, divergence time estimation, and large-scale analysis of real data.

Organisers
Erich Bornberg-Bauer, University of Muenster, Germany

Erez Levanon, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Invited speakers
Cédric Feschotte, Cornell University, USA

Erez Levanaon, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Symposium overview
From a perspective of information theory, repeats in sequences, seem to carry only a small amount of information. Accordingly, repeats have for a long time been seen as “junk” with only little benefit for adaptive processes. However, over the last years, repeats in general and mobile elements in particular came into focus as being drivers for genome evolution and innovation and as a potent source of regulatory sequences in eukaryotic genomes. Rather recently their contribution to protein structures evolution is starting to explored too. Advances on genomic, transcriptomic and proteomics analyses revealed the contribution of repeats for the rapid expansion of protein coding gene families and the formation specific proteins structures. Many cases of conversion of low-complexity sequences into coding sequences have been reported, as well as several examples of edited version of mobile elements that became novel coding sequences. In this symposium we will bring together evolutionary and molecular biologists, bioinformaticians and geneticists with the aim to discuss the depth and breadth of repeats and their importance for genome innovations with specific emphasis for their contribution for the creation of novel protein coding sequences.

Organisers
Danna Gifford, University of Manchester, UK    

Chris Knight, University of Manchester, UK

Mato Lagator, University of Manchester, UK

Invited speakers
Paul Neve, Rothamsted Research, UK

Alison Feder, University of California Berkeley, USA

Symposium overview
The emergence of resistance includes some of the most compelling stories of molecular evolution in action. Resistance to antimicrobial, antiviral, antiparasitic, and anti-cancer agents is a significant burden for global health, while resistance to herbicides and pesticides threatens the economic viability of agriculture. This symposium will bring together researchers working on the evolution of resistance to different agents in diverse organisms. Recent advances in high-throughput genomics and phenotyping have allowed real-time tracking of resistance evolution, using both in vitro and in vivo systems. Further, theory and in silico modelling are enabling increasingly predictive approaches. Fostering interactions in this area will highlight shared and divergent evolutionary and molecular principles underlying resistance evolution in different organisms. We encourage abstract submissions covering any and all aspects of real-time resistance evolution from clinical, agricultural, veterinary, laboratory and other systems

Organisers
Fiona J Whelan, University of Nottingham, UK

Chris Creevey, Queen's University Belfast, UK

Invited speaker
Kevin R. Foster  University of Oxford, UK

Symposium overview
Microbial communities (i.e. microbiomes) shape ourselves and our environments. Our interactions with these communities can alter our health, our food sources, and the marine and soil environments around which we live. In order to better understand these communities, we must understand the evolution of individual strains and species within them, the evolutionary interactions (i.e. cooperation and competition) between members, as well as how these collective communities have evolved to interact with their environment and/or host organism. Evolutionary studies of microbial communities have historically been neglected. As such, the aim of this symposia is to highlight those whose research is making strides in combining the fields of evolution and microbiology towards the study of microbial communities. This symposia will focus on fostering the novel approaches in this field, including research which may not be getting enough attention in the broader field of microbiome research. Talks will combine evolution, ecology, and microbiology, in order to shape our understanding of the microbial communities which live in us, around us, and in symbiosis with us.                        

Organisers
Alejandro Couce, Imperial College London, UK

Deepa Agashe, National Centre for Biological Sciences, India

Invited speakers
Paul Rainey, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany      

Joachim Krug, University of Cologne, Germany

Symposium overview
Is molecular evolution predictable, or do chance events make it essentially irreproducible? Multiple layers of uncertainty combine to prevent a simple answer to this question, from the inherent stochasticity of mutation and recombination to the intricacies of epistasis and environmental interactions. And yet, an increasing body of literature shows that natural and laboratory populations often accrue similar mutations during adaptation to similar conditions. These observations of parallel evolution were traditionally understood as the consequence of strong directional selection. More recently, advances in high-throughput sequencing and genetic engineering have revealed an unanticipated role for mutational biases and epistatic constraints in limiting the number of adaptive paths effectively realised by selection. In this symposium, we will bring together scientists from different backgrounds sharing a fascination for understanding the role of these limiting factors in driving parallel molecular evolution. We will showcase a diversity of recent approaches to address this important topic, from population genetics and genomics to experimental evolution studies; with the goal of creating a diverse forum to share the latest research insights and discuss the future challenges in this emerging field.

Organisers
Gillian Belbin, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA       

Sarah Kaewert, University of Denver, USA

Invited speakers
Yaniv Erlich, MyHeritage, Israel 

Graham Coop, University California Davis, USA

Symposium overview
Due to the growing popularity of Direct To Consumer (DTC) genomics and the implementation of large-scale biobanking initiatives, millions of humans across the world have now been genotyped using genome-wide array technology. This has provided unprecedented opportunities to empirically explore the shared genetic history of global populations from datasets of hundreds of thousands to millions of participants. This symposia will bring together speakers working at the cutting edge of research in genetic genealogy and coalescent theory, in industry and academic settings, to provide novel insights into human relationships and relatedness at a global scale. It will explore technological advancements, and the far-reaching implications, as the use of these data becomes increasingly pervasive in public life, including in fields as diverse as law enforcement and medicine.          

Organisers
Levi Yant, University of Nottingham, UK

Mario Vallejo-Marin, University of Stirling, UK

Invited speakers
Professor Ute Krämer, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany          

Angela Hancock, Max Planck Institute, Cologne, Germany

Symposium overview
Across life, extreme environments often yield the most dramatic of phenotypes. Such scenarios can also leave especially clear signatures of selection on the genome, facilitating insight into molecular mechanisms underlying these adaptations. In this symposium, we focus on understanding adaptive genome evolution in extremophile eukaryote organisms across kingdoms using population and ecological genomics. We feature speakers that address how extremophilic species have expanded ecological niches by capitalising on genomic structural variation, and studies that leverage the massive selection pressures exerted by extreme environments to give especially clear genomic targets of selection using large-scale population genomics. Leveraging the relatively clear signatures presented by extreme adaptations provides an opportunity to study adaptation and speciation in action, and a chance to refine methods to pinpoint loci controlling subtler and often more highly polygenic scenarios. From this symposium we aim to gain integrated views on how to move from these methodologically more straightforward extremophile cases to subtler, quantitative phenotypic contrasts.          

Organisers
Arcadi Navarro, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain            

Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, University of Liverpool, UK

Invited speakers
Emma Telling, University College Dublin, Ireland

Jacob Moorad, University of Edinburgh, UK

Symposium overview
Senescence (or ageing) is the progressive and time-dependent decline in physiological function that affects most organisms, leading to decreased rates of survival and reproduction and, eventually, to death. Senescence is a fascinating evolutionary problem and, given an ageing population worldwide, it is arguably the major biomedical challenge of the 21st century.     Many theories have been proposed to explain how senescence evolves. The best known and widely accepted ones are the Mutation Accumulation and the Antagonistic Pleiotropy theories. However, the sheer diversity of ageing patterns across the tree of life, including organisms that do not appear to experience senescence, suggests that there is no single theory that can be reconciled with all the data.     Many theoretical and empirical studies have tried to unravel the evolutionary and mechanistic underpinnings of senescence, ranging from novel mathematical models to comparative studies of long and short-lived organisms, including human supercentenarians.    We aim to bring together recent contributors of innovative models, novel datasets and new experimental and analytical approaches. Together, we will examine how the latest developments can shed light on our understanding of the evolutionary and mechanistic causes of ageing and, perhaps, how can they suggest strategies to deal with ageing in our species.

Organisers
Christian Schlötterer, Institute of Population Genetics, Vetmeduni, Vienna, Austria

Neda Barghi, Institute of Population Genetics, Vetmeduni Vienna, Austria

Invited speakers
Samuel Yeaman, University of Calgary, Canada  

Kavita Jain, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, India

Jonathan Pritchard, Stanford University, USA,

Symposium overview
For decades the identification of selected loci built on population genetic theory predicting “selective sweep” signatures for selection targets and flanking sequences. Many empirical studies found genomic patterns that are compatible with predictions for hard, soft or incomplete sweeps. Nevertheless, most traits are polygenic as demonstrated by many QTL and GWAS studies. Empirical evidence for genomic signatures of polygenic adaptation has been considered difficult since only small shifts in the allele frequency of (very) many contributing loci are expected. Recent theoretical and empirical work demonstrated, however, that the selection signature of polygenic adaptation can result in substantial allele frequency changes-similar to selective sweeps. Hence, the dynamics of alleles contributing to polygenic adaptation can be traced experimentally, leading to novel insights about adaptive processes. This symposium brings together empirical and theoretical researchers with the intention to explore the genomic signatures of polygenic adaptation. Combining theory with empirical data from natural populations and experimental populations this symposium will provide an important contribution to develop new approaches for the detection of polygenic adaptation.

Organisers
Ian PM Tomlinson, University of Birmingham, UK

Xiaowei Jiang, University of Birmingham, UK

Invited speakers
Andrea Sottoriva, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom             

Trevor Graham Barts Cancer Institute, London, United Kingdom

Symposium overview
Cancer development can be viewed as an evolutionary and ecological process, in which the cancer cells and their microenvironment (TME) may jointly determine its evolutionary trajectory.    Developing effective anti-cancer treatment therefore requires characterising both the cancer cells and their TMEs at both phenotypic and genetic levels. Recent advances in cancer genomics and evolutionary/mathematical modeling have allowed the test of several important molecular evolution theories in cancer, including Kimura’s neutral theory and positive Darwinian selection. Moreover, in molecular evolution the duplication of genetic materials provides a basis for natural selection and functional innovation. There is increasing evidence showing gene duplication may also play important roles in cancer through somatic copy number variations.      However, the heterogeneity in cancer cells and their microenvironment within and between patients makes it challenging to predict cancer evolution and develop effective anti-cancer treatments. Evolutionary biology and mathematical modeling have been instrumental in this endeavour. In this symposium studies that aim to advance our understanding of cancer development and treatment in an evolutionary context will be presented. We encourage cancer researchers from all areas to submit their relevant work.

Organisers
Jordi Paps, University of Essex, UK

Mary O’Connell, University of Nottingham, UK

Roberto Feuda, University of Bristol, UK

Invited speakers
Eörs Szathmáry, Biological Institute, Eötvös University, Hungary 

Purificacion Lopez-Garcia, CNRS, University of Paris Sud, France

Symposium overview
The history of life on Earth shows major evolutionary transitions, shifts in which new biological features emerged that dramatically changed the biology of organisms. The endless forms most beautiful we observe today are the result of these revolutions that shaped the biology of the planet. These innovations were at the centre of the seminal book “The Major Transitions in Evolution” by John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry, published nearly 25 years ago. They include the origins of cells and sex, major endosymbiotic events, or the rise of multicellularity and societies among others.     The abundance of genomic data, new evolutionary algorithms, and emerging technologies - such as single-cell sequencing - offer a timely opportunity to study the molecular changes underlying most of these major transitions. Recent research has showed the importance of gene duplication (e.g., the origins of multicellularity), the evolution of cell types (the rise of animals or the nervous system), or the fusion of genomes from different organisms (eukaryotes and photosynthesis). In this symposium we will explore the molecular basis associated with these transitions at different organisation levels, from genes and cells to complete organisms.

Organisers
Zachary Fuller, Columbia University, USA             

Maren Wellenreuther, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Lesley Lancaster, University of Aberdeen, UK

Invited speakers
Iliana Baums, Penn State, USA   

Rachael Dudaniec, Macquarie University, Australia

Symposium overview
Climate change is transforming environments globally at an unprecedented rate and poses a major threat to species and ecosystems worldwide. Understanding how populations respond to rapidly changing environments is crucial to developing conservation efforts and mitigation strategies. The rise of high-throughput genomics now provides a unique opportunity to study the genetic basis of adaptation and predict responses to future anthropogenic environmental changes, in both model and non-model species alike. This symposium will showcase recent advances in the use of genomic data and the application of population genetics approaches to understand responses to climate change. In particular, it will emphasize innovative interdisciplinary approaches that connect insights gained from genetic data with their implications for conservation efforts.    

Organisers
Mehmet Somel, Middle East Technical University, Turkey            

Anders Götherström, Stockholm University, Sweden

Matteo Fumagalli, Imperial College London, UK

Invited speakers
Fernando Racimo, University of Copenhagen, Denmark 

Beth Shapiro, UC Santa Cruz, USA

Symposium overview
As the number of published ancient genomes is growing rapidly, there is also increasing interest in going beyond demographic inference and using this new information for studying past and present adaptation. The temporal dimension provided by the incoming aDNA data can boost power to identify selection signatures. For instance, ancient genomes may eventually be used to study very soft sweeps affecting polygenic traits, difficult to investigate using present-day genomic variation. Increased time resolution can further facilitate testing hypotheses on the ecological drivers of past selection events. But despite all its lure, using aDNA to study selection also involves considerable obstacles, including low coverage or partial genomes, typically small sample sizes, postmortem damage confounding polymorphism, and other hurdles such as combining data produced using different strategies. This session will be an opportunity to start discussing these issues to promote the wider employment of aDNA in studying adaptation. We particularly invite talks describing novel methodology to most efficiently use available data to capture selection signatures. We also invite researchers studying adaptive processes using ancient genomes to share exciting new examples of adaptation in humans, domestic species, and natural populations, including selection on multigenic traits and adaptive introgression.

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