Professor at Department of Organismal Biology, Human Evolution, Uppsala universitet
Talk title: Inferring the evolution of early humans from complete genome sequences
Recent advances in sequencing technologies have provided the field of evolutionary biology with a wealth of genome sequence data from many individuals and populations. We now have the opportunity to return to models and methods deeply rooted in molecular and population genetics. I will review some of the recent directions for inference based on genome sequence data, and how we can mine this rich data to decipher evolutionary history. I will illustrate some of these approaches for both modern-day and ancient humans, and to discuss human history within sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, I will visit the genome sequences of several ancient Stone Age individuals from southern Africa. These Stone Age hunter-gatherers (~2,000 years old), were genetically similar to current-day San groups, which have consistently been shown to carry more unique variants and more divergent lineages than any other living human group. Using traditional and new population-genomic approaches, I will discuss the demographic history of early humans in Africa, including new estimates of the deepest human population split of around 300,000 years ago. This focus period coincide with anatomical developments of archaic humans into modern humans as represented in the fossil record, and suggest an important time-period for modern human development.
Principal Investigator, Gulbenkian Institute
Talk title: What can we learn from experimental fitness landscapes?
Fitness landscapes, which map genotypes or phenotypes to fitness, have developed from a theoretical metaphor into a popular subject of experimental study. The quantification of the shape of fitness landscapes carries the promise to inform us about the nature of adaptation, the probability of speciation, and the predictability of evolution. Yet, the true dimensionality of fitness landscapes is so immense that even large data sets can only cover a small area of the total sequence or phenotype space. Here, I present experimental data from yeast and E. coli to discuss the shape of the fitness landscape across environments, how it relates to known features of the protein structure, to natural sequence variation, and which new questions, challenges, and opportunities arise from the study of increasingly large experimental fitness screens.
Professor & Programme Lead for the Tree of Life Programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute
Talk title: Sequence everything: first fruits from the Tree of Life
Genome reference data can transform biological understanding of species, clades and ecosystems. A sea change in the technologies of sequencing and assembly now permits the generation of genome sequences of very high quality at scale. The Tree of Life programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute aims to generate reference genome sequences for all of life’s biodiversity. Using long read and long range sequencing data we are able to produce assemblies that are chromosomally contiguous, even from small individual specimens, and are working towards producing fully phased assemblies. I will present the strategies we are using and describe our experience with the first 100 genomes to emerge from the Darwin Tree of Life project, a collaboration between WSI and other partners through Britain and Ireland that aims to sequence 60,000 genomes of protists, fungi, plants and animals in the next decade.