Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Genetic basis of complex adaptations

Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a Kavli Frontiers of Science meeting in Potsdam, Germany. This is a unique meeting, in that it is a small (ie Less than 100 people). Most meetings are quite specialized, yet often quite large. The evolution meetings I often attend are usually over 1000 people, which is exciting, but sometimes intimidating. A goal of the Kavli meetings, sponsored by the National Academy of Science in the USA and the Alexander von Humboldt foundation in Germany, is to invite very talented young scientists, who are enthusiastic about communicating their research area to a non-specialist audience. John Logsdon, who was also at the meeting, describes the conference as akin opening an issue of Nature or Science, two of the premier cutting edge science journals in the world, and having an enthusiastic expert on hand to explain the research and answer questions. It’s really great fun to think about other science for a few days; a real mind expanding experience.

My job at this conference was to be an introductory speaker. There were eight sessions on diverse topics, and each session had an introducer like me, plus two speakers present their own research. My session was entitled “the evolution of complex adaptations”. Given the speakers who were involved (Hopi Hoekstra, Gerrit Begemann and I); we decided a good topic would be the genetic basis of evolutionary change. In some ways, this is slightly more general than the one chosen by the organizers, since there is a genetic basis to both complex and simple adaptations. I focused a bit on the recent controversy of whether regulatory or structural mutations are the primary source of variation in evolution (discussed in blogs, like pharyngula and here) – yet I still set the controversy in the context of complexity, to keep with the title of the session.

A great thing is that all the presentations were recorded. The audio is recorded, along with the Power Point slides, and presented in Flash format, all available online. So anyone can enjoy these amazing presentations. Previous year’s presentations are also available on the web. The NAS makes these available as part of their outreach mission. Below, I will link my presentation, for those interested in the origins of novelty, the subject of this blog. Of course check out all the presentations though – great fun!

Session: Evolution of Complex Adaptations

LINK: Introduction by Todd Oakley

As soon as they're up, I'll post links to the other talks in the session, and the meeting.

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