Symposia Overview

The full SMBE 2020 symposia programme is listed below. The programme below includes details on the organisers, invited faculty and an overview of the selected symposia for SMBE 2020. The details listed are subject to change.

There will also be six open symposia (48 talks) during the conference to cover topics not necessarily covered in the selected symposia.

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

Organisers

A.P. Jason de Koning, University of Calgary, Canada

Nicolas Rodrigue, Carleton University, Canada 

Invited Speakers

Carolin Kosiol, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

In traditional models of sequence evolution, each state transition is a substitution event and is assumed to correspond to a fixation in the underlying population. However, phylogenetic substitution models don't usually consider the mechanistic population genetic forces and parameters that influence fixation probabilities and substitution rates, including heterogeneous selection and variation in population size. As a result, making detailed inferences about the causes of molecular evolution with traditional models is challenging and has motivated the development of more mechanistic and biologically realistic approaches. Several such modelling frameworks have recently been advanced that embed a simplified model of population genetics into the overall phylogenetic model. These include both mutation-selection models of codon substitution, and so-called polymorphism-aware models of nucleotide substitution. These modelling approaches have great promise for stimulating further advances, however, their elaboration and deployment are not straightforward and have been the subject of significant interest.   To address the challenges and recent progress in modelling the population genetics of molecular evolution, we will bring together a diverse group of experts to present their latest results and ideas. Topics will include reconciling assumptions made at the population genetic and phylogenetic levels, computational advances to enable scalable inference under such models, and evaluation of the impact of untested assumptions in the current state-of-the-art models.

Organisers

Rafal Mostowy, Jagiellonian University, Poland

Claire Chewapreecha, Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Research Unit, Thailand

Invited Speakers

Kathryn E. Holt, Monash University, Australia

Symposium Overview

Epidemiologists and microbiologists have long been trying to understand why some bacteria make us sick and why some lineages are more readily able to infect susceptible individuals than others. While the introduction of next-generation sequencing has revolutionised the field of bacterial infectious diseases by helping us track the microbial spread and study their evolution, the interface of epidemiology and evolution is as yet full of intriguing questions. How does the evolutionary process shape the epidemiological dynamics of opportunistic pathogens? What is the role of between-microbe interactions and inter-strain competition in determining the success of a pathogenic lineage? What are the principal selective forces that drive the bacterial population structure? To what extent does horizontal gene transfer within- and between bacterial populations determine their evolutionary success? How do mobile genetic elements shape the evolution of the bacterial genome? This symposium will highlight the latest developments in answering these questions by bringing together a set of experts from multiple fields, including computational and experimental biologists, mathematical modellers, public health researchers, evolutionary microbiologists and others. We believe this will provide an excellent platform to catalyse ideas that bring us closer to the interface of “evolution” and “epidemiology”.

Organisers

Michelle Meyer, Boston College, United States

Arianne Babina, Uppsala University, Sweden

Invited Speakers

Naomi Fast, University of British Columbia, Canada

Symposium Overview

The discovery of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in all domains of life has dramatically expanded the known functional roles of RNA in biological systems. It is now well-established that ncRNAs are critical for gene regulation and epigenetic inheritance, cell development and differentiation, environmental response, and disease and host-pathogen interactions. Although their contributions to organismal physiology could be tantamount to that of protein-coding genes, our understanding of ncRNA evolution and its functional consequences have been hampered in the past by technical limitations to examining ncRNAs on a genome-wide scale. Advances in high-throughput sequencing have provided new tools to investigate RNA evolution, both through the study of sequenced genomes and the assessment of experimental evolution in real time. This symposium will gather, beneath a single umbrella, studies that explore the evolution of functional RNAs. This includes all types of natural regulatory RNAs from eukaryotes, prokaryotes, or viruses (e.g. miRNAs, lncRNAs, piRNAs, circRNAs, sRNAs, and riboswitches), any functional RNA or RNP complex (e.g. the spliceosome, RNase P, ribosome, or ribozymes), as well as experimental and theoretical studies using RNA as a model to address fundamental evolutionary questions. Thus, researchers from diverse areas of RNA biology can come together to illustrate common themes in this growing area.

Organisers

Timothy Sackton, Harvard University, United States

Russell Corbet-Detig, UC Santa Cruz, United States

Invited Speaker

Aida Andrés, University College London, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

In the past decade, rapidly declining sequencing costs have meant that generating large amount of population resequencing data is now practical for a wide range of species, especially outside traditional model systems. The rapid growth of available population genetic data, and the ease of generating new data, enables powerful comparative approaches across diverse species to tackle longstanding theoretical concerns in the field concerning the consistency and predictability of patterns of genetic diversity across species. While large, single-species datasets have proved increasingly powerful for disentangling the roles of demography, selection, and other evolutionary forces in population histories, drawing broad conclusions about fundamental topics such as the impact of linked selection, or the strength, timing, and mode of natural selection, requires a comparative approach. This symposium will bring together empirical, data-focused perspectives, new theoretical insights, and methodological developments in the rapidly growing field of comparative population genetics. Talks will highlight both the development and application of comparative frameworks to study a myriad of population processes. Specific topics may include the impact of linked selection on genetic variation, the role of shared demographic processes, the strength, timing, and mode of natural selection, and the genomic landscapes of mutation rates. Overall, this symposium will set the stage for current explosive growth of population genetic data, and highlight the excitement and potential of this flood of data for fundamental insights into evolutionary processes.

Organisers

Michael Matschiner, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Julia M. I. Barth, University of Basel,  Switzerland

Invited Speakers

Molly Schumer, Stanford University, United States

Symposium Overview

One of the most surprising revelations brought about by the ongoing revolution in genome sequencing is the high frequency of interspecific hybridization identified in nearly all genomic studies that explicitly test for it. This new insight has already begun to change our understanding of the speciation process and it has been argued that hybridization and the genetic exchange of adaptive variation — adaptive introgression — can promote speciation and thus be responsible for a great share of biodiversity. However, while the idea of introgression-linked speciation is receiving increasing support from case studies and experiments, its more intuitive antithesis has so far remained poorly addressed: Shouldn’t high frequencies of hybridization and backcrossing more commonly lead to the merging of two species into one — and thus a net loss of biodiversity — due to genome homogenization? And if it doesn’t, how do species remain separate despite hybridization and backcrossing? In this symposium, we bring together empirical case studies and theoretical investigations to shed light on this dark side of introgression; by examining the occurrence of introgression-linked species merging and the mechanisms maintaining species identities in the face of gene flow, including hybrid decay, cyto-nuclear incompatibilities, and purging of introgressed alleles.

Organisers

Ines Hellman, Ludwig-Maxmillians University Munich, Germany

Irene Gallegio Romero, University of Melbourne, Australia

Guanjing Hu, Iowa State University, United States

Corinne Grover, Iowa State University, United States

Invited Speakers

Philipp Khaitovich, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Teaching, Russia

Sarah Signor, North Dakota State University, United States

Symposium Overview

Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) lie at the heart of organismal complexity. Recent advances in technology which assay transcriptomes at the level of single cells and recapitulate development via stem-cell derived organoids have facilitated the reconstruction of human GRNs at unprecedent depths, and have laid bare the intricate web of interactions between genes, cells and tissues that make up organisms. In other animals and in plants, recent examples of regulatory evolution have demonstrated the contribution of cis and trans variation (1) across different scales of evolutionary divergence, (2) in association with polyploidy, and (3) through GRNs for understanding complex phenotypes. Moreover, the ability to compare regulatory variations across experimental conditions or different species is bringing us closer to understanding the evolution of complex phenotypes and how they respond to environmental signals. This symposium aims to bring together recent advances across taxonomic systems and will highlight the innovative approaches that are being used, such as single cell sequencing, eQTL analysis, epigenomics landscape profiling (e.g. chromatin state, 3D genome architecture), and gene editing techniques. We anticipate that the symposium will provide a platform for both experimental and theoretical studies that quantitatively compare transcriptomes and regulatory networks among species, and will stimulate the development of new methods, statistical or experimental, in this emerging arena.

Organisers

Dorothee Huchon, Tel-Aviv University, Israel

Dennis Lavrov, Iowa State University, United States

Einat Hazkani-Covo, The Open University of Israel, Israel

Invited Speakers

David Roy Smith, University of Western Ontario, Canada

Symposium Overview

The eukaryotic organelles, the mitochondrion, and the chloroplast harbor their own DNA and have attracted the evolutionary community since its early days. According to the endosymbiotic theory, these bioenergetic organelles descended from free-living bacteria and as such have much in common. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods enable genome-scale sequencing from a small amount of DNA and thousands of organelle genomes are sequenced every year. NGS eliminated the need for specific organelle primers, thus allowing sequencing the organelles of fast-evolving organisms. This led to the discovery of atypical genome structures such as partitioned organelle genomes, linear chromosomes, DNA editing, and the presence of non-canonical genes. One remarkable finding is that these atypical features have evolved several times independently in both organelles. This symposium will (a) present the latest advances regarding the diversity of organelle genomes with an emphasize the evolutionary forces which led to this variability (b) emphasis the unique biology of these organelles as reminders of prokaryotic endosymbiotic events. We aim to create a platform for broad discussion of mitochondria and chloroplasts and their evolutionary dynamics.

Organisers

Christelle Fraïsse, Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Austria

Vincent Castric, University of Lille, France

Invited Speakers

Melinda Pickup, University of Vienna, Austria

Symposium Overview

The mechanisms by which living organisms reproduce are strikingly diverse, including sexual reproduction w/o sex chromosomes or mating-types, self-fertilisation, self-incompatibility or asexuality. The recent years have drastically enriched our understanding of the genetic and ecological factors driving the way mating systems evolve and diversify, how species transition from one to another, as well as of the consequences of these transitions for the ecology, demography and genomic diversity of natural populations. Notably, identification of the molecular determinants of a number of reproductive systems contributes to the development of more realistic models of mating system transitions and diversification. In parallel, there is growing recognition that mating systems interact with wider set of life history traits than generally considered, with important consequences on the effective population size and patterns of gene flow. New exciting avenues are also being explored regarding the feedback between genome dynamics and mating system transitions, such as changes in transposable elements regulation or accumulation of the genetic load. These outcomes are now beginning to be better understood thanks to more realistic theoretical expectations and advanced molecular approaches. This symposium will bring new insights into the causes and consequences of reproductive systems evolution, spotlighting the multiple feedback loops between genome evolution and reproductive systems. We encourage contributions illustrating the wide variety of methods employed in the field, such as theoretical population genetics, comparative genomics and expression analyses, field experiments or experimental approaches on diverse study organisms.

Organisers

Rosa Fernández, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain

Jesus Lozano-Fernandez, Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF) of Barcelona, Spain

Invited Speakers

Anja Spang, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Netherlands

Symposium Overview

Resolving the Tree of Life has been prioritized as one of the 25 most important unsolved scientific questions by Science. The interrelationships within the three domains of life are still not fully understood. From bacteria to archaea to eukaryotes, many contentious relationships remain reluctant to resolution, epitomized, for instance, by the vivid debate about the phylogenetic placement of Ctenophora and Porifera in the tree of animals. Phylogenomic approaches have aided in resolving many contentious relationships. With the advent of Next Generation Sequencing techniques, a myriad of new datasets are currently being generated, allowing for an unprecedented in-depth interrogation of phylogenetic interrelationships at all systematic levels. Coupled to this, new analytical methods are being developed and tested to establish state-of-the-art analytical pipelines adequate to the biases introduced by these massive amounts of data. While resolving the Tree of Life is the goal for some -those interested in systematics- it is also the beginning for others -those intrigued by comparative studies. Having a fully-resolved phylogenetic tree is, therefore, key to understand evolution of gene repertoire, gene order, and any other genomic structural landmarks. Remarkable recent advances on comparative genomics have shed light on how genomes and phenotypes emerged and evolved, and how genomic elements are interconnected. In this symposium, we aim to explore the intersection of both fields - phylogenomics and comparative genomics - to illuminate the evolution of three lineages: archaea, fungi and metazoa. The proposed talks promise to trigger stirring discussions while setting the road towards understanding evolution in the different domains of life through the lens of phylogenetics.

Organisers

Antonia Chroni, Temple University, United States

Sayaka Miura, Temple University, United States

Marie-Julie Favé, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Canada

Fabien Lamaze, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Canada

Invited Speakers

Sarah Amend, John Hopkins University, United States

Elisabeth Murkinson, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

Cancer is a ubiquitous disease across many species, as all organisms accumulate somatic mutations throughout their lifetime. Cancer develop through a process of clonal evolution and expansion, where cancer cells accumulate mutations, expand, metastasize, and modulate their microenvironment. These complex biological processes are yet to be fully elucidated, resulting in clinical challenges for diagnostics, therapy, monitoring the disease progression and biomarker development. There is now a growing recognition that the principles and concepts of molecular evolution and population genetics together with the advancements of sequencing technologies are going to be a key to transforming the understanding of genetic and epigenetic changes found in the genomes of cancer cells. For example, recent advances using evolutionary theory have revealed that (1) cancer is governed by Darwinian selection of the fittest clones within the tumor, (2) that the micro-environment of the tumor represent an ecological niche inhabited by a diversity of cell populations, and (3) phenotypic convergence of cancer cells can happen even between different patients and species. In this symposium, we propose to explore the driving evolutionary forces during cancer development, potentially contributing but not limited to the molecular evolution of cancers, such as: tumour escapes, somatic mutation accumulation and gene and epigenetic regulation. We will also discuss how conceptual ideas and methods in molecular evolution, molecular ecology and biogeography are contributing to this research field.

Organisers

Frederic Chain, University of Massachusetts Lowell, United States

Raquel Assis, Florida Atlantic University, United States

Ben Evans, McMaster University, Canada

Invited Speakers

Vaishali Katju, Texas A&M University, United States

Symposium Overview

Gene duplication is a fundamental genomic phenomenon that generates novel genetic pathways, functions, and phenotypes. This symposium will showcase new findings on how gene duplication influences functional diversification, phenotypic variation, and adaptive evolution in natural and experimental populations. Leading experts will discuss recent advances in our understanding of (1) duplication rates and population dynamics of copy-number variations (CNVs) and duplicate genes, (2) transcriptomic and epigenomic consequences of gene duplication, (3) molecular mechanisms that generate duplications and selective forces acting on these mechanisms, and (4) drivers of gene family size evolution. These topics lie at the intersection of molecular evolution, experimental evolution, and population genomics, and will allow us to delve into exciting breakthroughs regarding the fitness and phenotypic consequences of gene duplication.

Organisers

Mar Albà, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain

Neel Prabh, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany

Invited Speakers

Manyuan Long, University of Chicago, United States

Symposium Overview

New genes continuously arise in all domains of life, driving the evolution of lineage-specific traits. The functional importance of new genes has invigorated interest in their origination. Historically, duplication-divergence has been seen as the primary source of new genic sequences. However, the mechanisms have proven to be more diverse, including the repurposing of non-genic sequences and ancient transposable elements as new genic elements. A number of studies performed in the last decade provide strong evidence that a large number of new genic sequences can arise de novo from ancestrally noncoding sequences. The discovery of de novo genes represents a turning point in our understanding of evolutionary novelty, yet many questions remain open. The mechanisms underlying the formation of new transcriptionally active regions are still poorly understood. It is also unclear how selection and neutral processes shape the composition and structure of de novo originated proteins. Further, the relative contribution of different gene origin mechanisms to the total pool of new genes in a species or taxa needs to be addressed. This symposium will bring together scientists working on different aspects of new gene origination and will provide a platform to discuss the future challenges in this emerging field.

Organisers

Mashaal Sohail, National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (UGA-LANGEBIO), Cinvestav, University of Chicago, Mexico and United States

Diego Ortega-Del Vecchyo, International Laboratory for Human Genome Research (LIIGH), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico

Invited Speakers

Brenna M. Hern, University of California, Davis, United States

Symposium Overview

Complex traits describe the majority of the range of anthropometric, disease and behavioral variation in humans. Genome-wide association studies have been able to associate large regions of the genome to specific traits and diseases, explaining a fraction of their observed phenotypic variation. This has led to the construction of polygenic predictors of complex traits for potential clinical applications, and to their use in studies of polygenic selection. Recent studies and commentaries have called into question the generalizability of polygenic scores, the role of selection in the evolution of complex traits, and the lack of diversity in association studies to accurately reflect present-day population heterogeneity. In light of this, new theoretical and empirical perspectives are needed to understand the role and interplay of ancestry, environment, population history and natural selection in the evolution of complex traits. This is being manifested in the increased generation of present-day and ancient DNA datasets from diverse human populations, as well as investment in the development of statistical methodologies to investigate how the interaction between complex population histories, environment and natural selection influence the genetic architecture and evolution of complex traits and diseases. In this symposium, we welcome all efforts from the genetics and genomics community to investigate the genetic architecture and evolution of complex traits in diverse human populations. We also welcome trans-disciplinary efforts that integrate genetics work with insights from the disciplines of history, anthropology and archaeology.

Organisers

Grace Lee, University of California, Irvine, United States

Chris Ellison, Rutgers University, United States

Invited Speaker

Yoav Gilad, University of Chicago, United States

Symposium Overview

High-throughput sequencing has enabled the genome-wide studies of natural variation in nucleotide polymorphism, gene copy number, and gene expression, which has driven a much deeper understanding of the evolutionary forces shaping such variation. Genome variation is usually examined in the context of a linear chromosome. However, genomic DNA is packaged into highly organized 3D structures inside the cell nucleus. Recent studies further suggest that the 3D organization of genomes plays a critical role in a diverse array of biological processes. These range from local functions, such as transcriptional regulation via long-distance enhancer-promoter contacts, chromosome-scale processes, such as meiosis and dosage compensation, to the partitioning of the genome into active and inactive compartments at the whole genome level. Despite the importance of 3D structure in genome function, whether and how the 3D genome organization impacts genome evolution is still largely unknown. This symposium will provide a forum to discuss new findings related to this topic and will start a conversation for the future development of this emerging research area.

Organisers

Rebekah Oomen, University of Oslo, Norway

Sissel Jentoft, University of Oslo, Norway

Invited Speakers

Dr. Marty Kardos, University of Montana, United States

Symposium Overview

Predicting the responses of populations, species, and ecosystems to the environment is a major challenge of our time. Advances in high throughput and long- and linked- read sequencing have produced a wealth of sequence and structural genomic data and facilitated large-scale ecological experiments and field studies on non-model organisms. These data have great potential to inform eco-evolutionary models of responses to a variety of selection pressures, such as climate change, harvesting, and domestication. For example, the discovery of large-effect loci and linked genomic architectures associated with adaptive traits alters predictions of trait evolution and population dynamics in response to environmental disturbance. Holistic single-species evolutionary models, also known as evolutionary response architectures, consist of 1) population dynamics, 2) genetic and genomic architecture, 3) the spatial distribution and abundance of adaptive alleles, and 4) phenotypic plasticity. This symposium aims to highlight studies that use genomic approaches with the aim of integrating one or more of these components into predictive models of responses to selection. They might use mathematical modelling, such as individual-/agent- based modeling, networks, or forward genetic simulations, to understand the evolutionary consequences of genomic and environmental variation. Studies on non-model taxa that explicitly consider individual-level variation, genomic architecture, species interactions, behaviour, or other forms of phenotypic plasticity are particularly encouraged. By bring together genomicists, evolutionary ecologists, and the mathematical and modelling community, we aim to bridge several levels of biological organization in a range of systems.

Organisers

Katja Kasimatis, University of Toronto, Canada

Santiago Sanchez-Ramirez, University of Toronto, Canada

Invited Speakers

Alison Wright, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

Sexual reproduction often leads to selection favoring sex-specific trait values, resulting in a cascade of sex differences that can lead to fitness conflicts between sexes. The development of these phenotypic sexual dimorphisms often requires sex-specific genomic elements and sex-biased gene expression. Empirical and theoretical studies are only beginning to characterize and understand the genomic footprints of sexual conflict. In particular, understanding the molecular mechanisms by which sexual dimorphisms evolve can provide insight into the resolution of sexual conflict and how this process is manifested in population genomic, comparative genomic, and transcriptomic data. This symposium will highlight novel developments at the intersection of sexual conflict, genome evolution, and transcriptomics. Specifically, speakers will explore current methods for identifying signatures of these processes along with experiments that identify the mechanism of sexual conflict. This symposium aims to push the field toward emerging technologies to answer long-standing questions on the importance of sexually antagonistic selection as an evolutionary mechanism.

Organisers

Julien F. Ayroles, Princeton University, United States

Amanda Lea, Princeton University, United States

Luisa Pallares, Princeton University, United States

Invited Speakers

Lauren M. Mcintyre, University of Florida, United States

Symposium Overview

The current quantitative genetics paradigm is driven by a prevailing view that additive genetic models, focused on the mean effects of alternative alleles, adequately explain variation for most phenotypes. However, both theoretical and empirical work suggests that the relationship between genotype and phenotype is often environmentally-dependent, and that such “genotype x environment (GxE)” interactions are often key contributors to complex trait variation. However, until recently, GxE interactions have been difficult to study in practice, due to a lack of cost-effective technology for mapping the genotype-phenotype relationship across many individuals and environments. The growing ability to perform large-scale genomic work thus promises to answer many outstanding questions about GxE interactions with relevance to evolution, ecology, and human health, namely: (i) how much of the genome appears “irrelevant” for phenotypic variation under one set of conditions, but plays a fundamental role in other environments?; (ii) how do GxE interactions evolve, and in turn what role do they play in the evolutionary processes when species are exposed to new environments?; and (iii) to what degree do GxE interactions explain variation in fitness-related traits in natural populations, including disease-related traits in humans? Addressing these questions is essential for revealing the context-dependency of allelic effects, a major knowledge gap in our understanding of the genetic basis of complex traits. We encourage researchers working on diverse study organisms and from diverse fields to join us in discussing recent advances in the field of GxE interactions, as well as the challenges for the years to come.

Organisers

Ellen Leffler, University of Utah, United States

Azim Ansari, Wellcome Centre Human Genetics, University of Oxford, United Kingdom 

Invited Speakers

Vincent Pedergnana, CNRS University of Montpellier, France

Symposium Overview

Hosts and pathogens exert strong selective pressures on one another, resulting in cycles of mutual adaptation and counter-attack. Yet we know very little about the genetic mechanisms underlying this process. What host and pathogen genes interact, how do they interact, how specific are these interactions and what forms of selection operate? While traditionally studies have considered genetic variation in either host or pathogen in isolation, recent advances in next generation sequencing and other technologies have made it possible to obtain paired host-pathogen genomic, transcriptomic or proteomic data. This opens new opportunities to identify interactions and reveal host-pathogen co-evolutionary dynamics, but also poses methodological, analytical and theoretical challenges. This symposium will bring together researchers who are pioneering approaches to jointly analyse host and pathogen data in diverse taxa, leading to novel insights into the molecular basis and genetic mechanisms underlying this co-evolutionary process.

Organisers

John Capra, Vanderbilt, United States

Laura Colbran, Vanderbilt, United States

Invited Speaker

Liran Carmel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Symposium Overview

Advances in sequencing DNA derived from ancient material are producing a wealth of ancient DNA sequence information from across time, geography, and species. Analyses of ancient DNA and proteins have already revealed insights into the recent evolution and demographic histories of many species. However, interpreting what genetic differences imply about phenotypic differences between ancient and modern individuals remains challenging, especially when there is substantial divergence between ancient and modern samples. This symposium welcomes submissions from researchers developing creative approaches to using ancient DNA to understand phenotypic differences between groups. Our goal is to provide a survey of the state of the field across diverse species and to provide a platform for discussion of needs and challenges going forward. We hope to feature both cutting-edge computational methods for extracting insights from ancient DNA and other molecules, as well as novel phenotypic discoveries made from these data.

Organisers

John Gibbons, University of Massachusetts, United States

Jeanne Ropars, University of Paris-Sud CNRA, France

Invited Speakers

Gianni Liti, Institute for Research on Cancer and Aging (IRCAN), France

Symposium Overview

Determining the evolutionary mechanisms, genomic outcomes, and functional consequences of adaptation is of paramount importance in understanding the nature of evolution, and in predicting the evolutionary responses of organisms in the face of global change. Humans have utilized microbes (bacteria, yeasts and molds) for thousands of years in the production of fermented foods and beverages and, more recently, for biotechnological applications and laboratory models. These long-term relationships have led to microbial adaptation and specialization under human-directed selection (artificial selection). Humans have used some microbial groups for specific purposes under regimes that are known or can be inferred, providing an ideal framework for evaluating how selection shapes genomes and communities. Importantly, microbes rarely live in solitude but instead live within complex, multi-species communities. Human-made environments provide model systems to understand how these communities interact. Additionally, microbial evolution in human-made environments is an ideal scenario to study the population genomic footprints of demographic events and adaptation because natural populations are often available for comparisons and because population genetic processes (i.e. genetic drift and selection) are often strong and recent. This symposium aims at fostering broad discussions, by presenting current advances in our understanding of adaptation and evolution of microorganisms and their communities in human-made environments.

Organisers

Sophie Breton, Université de Montréal, Canada

Liliana Milani, University of Bologna, Italy

Fabrizio Ghiselli, University of Bologna, Italy

Invited Speakers

Nick Lane, University College London, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

In the current debate on climate change, it is becoming of general interest to understand the mechanisms by which organisms face a changing environment. Organisms respond to environmental factors over time in two ways: (i) short-term changes during their lifetime (e.g. epigenetic modifications and gene expression changes) and (ii) long-term changes across generations, i.e. heritable evolutionary responses, resulting in genetically distinct populations – potentially even new species. While empirical examples of rapid responses and evolutionary adaptations involving nuclear genes exist from a range of animals and plants, the importance of mitochondria and their genomes in promoting adaptation to both short- and long-term environmental changes is still largely unexplored. This major knowledge gap is surprising given the pivotal role of mitochondria in cell survival and functions, ageing and human health. Indeed, mitochondria are on the frontline of the cellular response to the environment and emerging data suggest that mitochondrial epigenetic and genetic systems can fuel phenotypic variation and evolutionary innovations. This symposium aims at reviewing advances in our understanding of how mitochondrial function, structure, expression, evolution, inheritance and interactions with the nuclear genome contribute to organism adaptation to environmental conditions.

Organisers

Kathryn Elmer, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Roger Butlin, University of Sheffield and University of Gothenburg, United Kingdom and Sweden

Invited Speakers

Stacey Dewitt Smith, University of Colorado-Boulder, United States

Symposium Overview

A major effort of evolutionary biology is to understand how organisms adapt and diversify in response to environmental challenges. A powerful framework for extracting the core biological underpinnings of that process is by testing the repeated independent evolution of similar phenotypes across similar environments. Such research on parallel and convergent evolution has blossomed in recent years as molecular techniques and sophisticated modelling empower detailed dissection of empirical cases, both in experimental context and in natural populations. Consequently, it is coming to light that many hallmark examples of repeated evolution at the phenotypic level have a substantial non-parallel component at the molecular level. However the underlying causes of this and how pervasive they are across different study systems are not known although they are clearly critically important for our understanding of evolution. Valuable insights for molecular and evolutionary biology can be gained from the uniquely powerful framework of parallel or convergent evolution, by exploring the roles of genomic, demographic, and functional molecular factors that influence the potential and realization of parallel or convergent outcomes. This symposium will bring together current research on both experimental and natural population that uses parallelism and convergence explicitly to understand and test hypotheses about the predictability of evolution. Using the most relevant study systems and advanced molecular approaches, it will highlight the genomic factors underlying predictability. This will consolidate the state-of-the-art for the field of molecular and evolutionary biology of parallel/ convergent evolution and provide perspectives for future research on this topic.

Organisers

Ignacio Bravo, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Montpellier, France

Caroline Rose, Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS, Montpellier, France

Invited Speakers

Shelley Copley, University of Colorado-Boulder, United States

Symposium Overview

Codon usage preferences and synonymous mutations are classic avenues of research molecular evolutionary biology. Synonymous mutations are most often (dis)regarded as markers of neutral evolution. However, mounting evidence shows that the expression of synonymous genes is far from neutral, at several integration levels, because codon-embedded information determines the efficiency of transcription and translation. Regarding cellular impact, expression of differently encoded synonymous genes causes strong differential modulation of the transcriptome and of the proteome. Regarding gene evolvability, differential synonymous encoding modifies the sequence space accessible by mutation and constrains the available genotypes that can be presented to selection. Regarding the robustness of the genotype-phenotype association, synonymous mutations may alter the enzyme active center interface, broadening the cellular metabolic repertoire. Regarding virus-host interactions, synonymous recoding of viral genes strongly attenuates the natural history of the infection and are envisioned as the most promising avenue for novel vaccine development. Regarding the effects on organism fitness, certain synonymous point mutations are associated with a disease phenotype in humans, often linked to mRNA mis-splicing or protein mis-folding. This symposium will bring together researchers from often disconnected fields, working on the molecular determinants of efficiency and accuracy of translation and protein folding, on the probabilistic connection between genotypes and phenotypes, on fundamental and clinical virology, on vaccine development, on biotechnology and application of heterologous expression, and on the genetic determinants of rare diseases and ill-defined syndromes.

Organisers

Adrian Serohijos, University of Montreal, Canada

Nobuhiko Tokurki, University of British Columbia, Canada

Invited Speaker

Eugene I. Shakhnovich, Harvard University, United States

Symposium Overview

At the fundamental level, the evolution of macromolecules is a multiscale process that is constrained by parameters at several scales of biological organization—from sequence, to biophysics, to cellular organization, to population, and ecology. In essence, this is a reflection of the complexity of biological organization. Nonetheless, these scales have been addressed by distinct, often non-interacting disciplines, leading to fundamental technical and conceptual gaps. In recent years, there have been extensive efforts to bridge all these scales, both theoretically and experimentally. In particular, biophysical fitness landscapes are helping to advance our understanding of the interplay of mutation and selection in predicting the course of microbial and viral evolution. This symposium will bring together leading experts who will highlight this recent progress.

Organisers

Joanna Masel, University of Arizona, United States

Joseph Matheson, University of Arizona, United States

Invited Speakers

Katrina McGuigan, University of Queensland, Australia

Symposium Overview

Mutation load describes the loss of fitness in populations due to deleterious alleles. This concept is relevant to an extremely wide range of fields, from drift load within a species at an invading range front to accumulated load within cancer cells in a tumor. Exciting research on the causes, qualities, and consequences of mutation load is being done across many different theoretical frameworks and experimental systems, including sexual selection, human population genetics, conservation genetics, and cancer biology. We believe it is critical for researchers working on mutation load from different perspectives to be in conversation with one another. Our symposium is intended to provide that conversation, and we aim to include speakers working on mutation load from across fields.

Organisers

Levi Yant, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

Filip Kolar, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic

Invited Speakers

Polina Novikova, VIB Ghent, Belgium

Symposium Overview

Whole genome duplications (WGD, polyploidizations) occur in all kingdoms and are associated with phenomena ranging from speciation, to crop domestication, to cancer development. Effects of WGD are far-reaching, from cellular through organismal levels, to population genetic and ecosystem processes. Polyploidy has enjoyed keen interest in population genetics since at least J.B.S. Haldane, with theory predicting substantive ploidy-based differences for both neutral and selective processes. For example, higher ploidies are expected to exhibit increased neutral diversity, reduced neutral divergence, and increasing population-scaled recombination rates should reduce linkage. In terms of selective processes, complex effects are expected, due to differences in the manifestation of allelic dominance. Equilibrium frequencies at mutation-selection balance can be orders of magnitude higher for recessive mutations, increasing genetic load. Frequencies of beneficial alleles should change more slowly for most dominance patterns. Lastly, weaker linkage may reduce interference between beneficial alleles, allowing greater opportunity for beneficial alleles to recombine onto haplotypes with fewer deleterious mutations. In short, expectations from theory are clear, but robust empirical data have lacked: only in the last couple of years have these expectations been tested at the genome level in natural systems. Here we focus on this work and its implications, supporting the view of polyploids as diverse and adaptable evolutionary amalgamates. The effects of WGD include altered adaptability relative to progenitors, and the functional and population genomic basis of these is effect are now coming to light in multiple kingdoms.

Organisers

B. Jesse Shapiro, University of Montreal, Canada

Michael Vos, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Invited Speakers

Tal Dagan,  University of Kiel, Germany

Symposium Overview

Species in all domains of life have pangenomes – the entire set of genes in a sample of genomes, including genes present in only one or a few individuals – with archaeal and bacterial genomes being particularly fluid due to horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Routine high-throughput genome sequencing has made it easy to define the pangenome. As easy as they are to define, pangenomes are difficult to understand. In particular, it remains debated to what extent pangenome size and content is maintained by natural selection, as opposed to genetic drift. This controversy can be informed by population genetic theory, but it is not clear whether the population genetic toolkit can be directly applied, because pangenomes are shaped by HGT, which defies traditional population and species boundaries. In this session, we will address the following questions:

- How should we define pangenomes when species boundaries are not clear? - Are pangenomes shaped mainly by selection or drift?

- Do all mechanisms of HGT contribute equally to shaping pangenomes?

- How do the answers to these questions vary in different taxa or domains of life, and on different evolutionary time scales?

We encourage contributions that address these or related questions, using any combination of experiments, population genomics, ecology, or modelling, and focusing on any domain of life.

Organisers

Mohamed Almarri, Wellcome Sanger Institute, United Kingdom 

Elena Arciero, Wellcome Sanger Institute, United Kingdom

Invited Speakers

Choongwon Jeong, Seoul National University, South Korea

Symposium Overview

Despite the progress in sampling many populations, human genomics research is still not fully reflective of the diversity found globally. Understudied populations limit our knowledge of genetic variation and demographic history, and their inclusion is needed to ensure they benefit from future developments in genomic medicine. Recent advancement of genomic techniques, including cost-effective sequencing and developments in ancient DNA, are allowing researchers to gain unprecedented insights into human populations; uncovering signals of selection and admixture while also holding the promise of harnessing the information to elucidate the genetics of disease. Most of the population genetic and disease association studies have been focused on individuals of European ancestry, leaving large gaps in the understanding of demographic history, evolution and disease genetics in other human populations. This symposium would focus on recent efforts in the analyses of genomic data from underrepresented populations and trans-ethnic cohorts. Focusing three main topics: Firstly, on population structure and demographic history of both modern and ancient individuals from underrepresented populations. Secondly, on how such analyses can be used to better understand human diseases from these populations. Thirdly, the developments of new and improved methods for population genomics and disease risk prediction.

Organisers

Nancy Chen, University of Rochester, United States

Emily Josephs, Michigan State University, United States

Invited Speakers

Susan Johnston, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

Quantitative genetics has a long history of addressing important evolutionary topics, such as life-history variation, sexual selection, behavior, climate change, immunity, and aging. Until recently, this work has been limited to populations with known pedigrees made through observations or crossing schemes. However, the increasing availability of genomic techniques has opened up these research approaches to a wider range of wild plant and animal systems that may not have been previously accessible. Relevant new approaches include using genomic data to construct kinship matrices without pedigrees, identifying specific loci important for quantitative trait variation via genome-wide association mapping studies, estimating polygenic scores, and applying population genetic approaches to quantitative trait loci. Our symposium will highlight innovative approaches and exciting results in the growing field of quantitative genomics of wild non-model systems. Topics include the genomic architecture of polygenic variation, gene by environment interactions, multivariate selection, indirect genetic effects, inbreeding depression, and prediction of evolutionary responses and constraints. This symposium will have broad relevance to evolutionary biologists working in a range of fields, from quantitative and population genomics to conservation, agricultural, and medical genetics.

Organisers

Keylie Gibson, George Washington University, United States

Matthew Bendall, Weill Cornell Medicine, United States

Invited Speakers

Anne-Marie Dion-Côté, Université de Moncton, Canada

Symposium Overview

Retroelements are ubiquitous throughout the eukaryotic tree of life and are key drivers of genome evolution and innovation. They are characterized by their ability to move throughout the genome by expression of an RNA intermediate, which is reverse transcribed and inserted back into the genome. As this activity entails a high likelihood of deleterious effects, the majority of endogenized retroelements are inactivated through mutation or regulatory control; in other circumstances, elements have been co-opted to perform key host functionalities. This may include novel protein-coding functions, such as fusogenic retroviral envelopes or RNA-encapsulating gag proteins. In contrast, innovation may occur on the regulatory level through rewiring of gene regulatory networks or reshaping three-dimensional chromatin architecture. We encourage abstracts covering any and all aspects of retroelement biology. This may include co-option of retroelements, impact of retroelement expression on health and disease, evolution of retroelements, or retroelement characterization and nomenclature.

Organisers

Claire Mérot, Université Laval - IBIS, Canada

Maren Wellenreuther, Plant and Food Research, Nelson, New Zealand

Marine Brieuc, University of Oslo, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Norway

Helle Tessand Baalsrud, University of Oslo, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Norway

Monica H. Solbaken, University of Oslo, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Norway

Invited Speakers

Mark Kirkpatrick, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, United States

Rebekah Rogers, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, College of Computing and Informatics, United States

Symposium Overview

Genomic Structural Variants (SVs), including inversions, translocations, duplications, insertions and deletions, typically account for more variation than single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and are key contributors of evolutionary adaptation and diversification. However, their characterization is notoriously difficult due to their complexity and tendency to cluster in repeat-rich regions.

Recently, tremendous methodological and technological advances have been made which allow for the more accurate detection of SVs. Further, both theoretical and empirical work provide exciting insights into the molecular mechanisms by which SVs contribute to adaptation at a micro- and macroevolutionary scale in model and non-model species. For instance, duplication can facilitate adaptation and diversification by providing raw material for functional evolution and by impacting gene dosage through copy number variation. SVs affecting recombination such as inversions have also been shown to be commonly involved in local adaptation and reproductive isolation by allowing the coexistence of different ecotypes in the face of gene flow.

This symposium aims to address the role of structural variants in adaptation and diversification by creating a synergy between [1] genomic/bioinformatic approaches that characterize SVs across the genome, [2] experimental approaches testing genotype-phenotype relationships and mechanistic effects of SVs, [3] comparative, ecological or population-level studies that address SV distribution and polymorphism within and between species in natural systems, and [4] theoretical modelling that investigates the interplay between genome structure and evolution.

Organisers

Santiago Castillo-Ramírez, Programa de Genómica Evolutiva, Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, UNAM, Mexico

Esperanza Martínez-Romero, Programa de Ecología Genómica, Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, UNAM, Mexico

Invited Speakers

Jesse Shapiro, Université de Montréal, Canada

Symposium Overview

The constant decline of sequencing costs has made it possible to analyze large numbers of bacterial strains and, therefore, to study diverse populations and communities of bacteria to an unprecedented level of resolution. Rapid progress has been made in population genomics, metagenomics and experimental evolution; these disciplines have made significant contributions to either microbial ecology or microbial evolution yet, unfortunately, few studies have tried to integrate ecology and evolution perspectives. In this regard, there is the commonly unsubstantiated assumption that ecological dynamics occur way faster than evolutionary processes. However, at least in bacteria, it is clear that evolutionary and ecological processes occur at similar time scales, as bacteria can change drastically their genotype during their lifespan due to rapid loss or gain (generally through horizontal gene transfer) of genes. Frequently, these gene acquisitions/losses alter the functional capacity of bacteria, which in turn impacts on the bacteria’s potential to occupy new/different niches. Thus, thinking about eco-evolutionary dynamics makes much more sense than just focusing on either evolutionary or ecological perspectives (particularly at micro evolutionary scales). Importantly, none of the disciplines mention above is fully capable of tracking eco-evolutionary processes in bacteria and a serious attempt to integrate them is required. This symposium will bring together people working on population genomics, metagenomics and experimental evolution to combine the knowledge from these three areas into a more coherent understanding of the eco-evolutionary dynamics in bacteria. This symposium will add to theme of how the evolutionary and ecological processes interact with one another.

Organisers

Alejandro Couce, Technical University of Madrid, Spain

Aleeza Gerstein, University of Manitoba, Canada

Rike Stelkens, Stockholm University, Sweden

Caiti Smukowski, North Carolina University, United States

Invited Speakers

Christina Burch, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, United States

Martin Turcotte, University of Pittsburgh, United States

Symposium Overview

Understanding the processes and genetic mechanisms underlying adaptation to new and rapidly changing environments is a major challenge of evolutionary and conservation biology, agricultural breeding, and infectious disease research. Experimental evolution studies have afforded the means to investigate fundamental and oft-debated questions in evolutionary biology required to inform solutions to these challenges: how repeatable is evolution? What is the relative importance of de novo mutations, standing variation, and introgression on the molecular basis and rate of adaptation? What are the roles of phenotypic plasticity, epistasis, and genotype-by-environment interactions in shaping fitness landscapes? Our ability to conduct such inquiry-driven research continues to expand thanks to recent advances in genome sequencing, genome engineering, and single-cell technology. In this symposium, we will showcase the latest insights into evolutionary theory using experimental evolution in microbial, plant, and animal systems to better understand both the limits and potential for rapid evolutionary responses to new and changing environments.

Organisers

Anne-Marie Dion-Côté, Université de Moncton, Canada

Laura Katz, Smith College, United States

Alexander Suh, Uppsala University, Sweden

Invited Speakers

Laurence D Hurst, University of Bath, United Kingdom

Symposium Overview

Genomes are typically considered static/fixed across cell types and/or life stages within an organism, with changing transcriptional patterns resulting in cell differentiation and specialization. Yet, various within-individual genomic changes have been observed during development in many species across the tree of life. Such changes include ploidy variation, amplification or elimination of specific parts of the genome, and chromosome rearrangements with potentially important consequences that include cell fate, sex determination and dosage compensation as well as aging. These data demonstrate that 1) genomes are more dynamic than typically envisioned, 2) eukaryotes can distinguish between somatic (i.e. flexible within species) and germline (i.e. heritable) genomes, and 3) Mendelian inheritance is insufficient to explain many patterns observed across lineages. Further, genome conflicts including those involving selfish genetic elements (i.e. transposable elements, viruses, B chromosomes), likely underlie some of these genome processes. Combined with classic approaches such as cytogenetics and histology, emerging technologies such as single-cell and long-read sequencing now allow to study these processes at an unprecedented scale. This symposium will bring together biologists interested in within-individual genome dynamics, with a particular emphasis on germline / soma distinction and how these processes may impact cell fate, sex determination and aging. We hope this will help identify central questions to foster synergy and bring the field forward.

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