Laurent Frantz – Understanding domestication in the genomic era

Speaker: Dr. Laurent Frantz (Queen Mary University of London/ The University of Oxford)

Title: Understanding domestication in the genomic era

Where: Anatomy G04 Gavin de Beer LT, UCL (Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT)

When: 31 May 2018, 17:30


Beginning with dogs over 15,000 years ago, the domestication of plant and animals has played a key role in the development of modern societies. Given its fundamental importance, a vast literature from a wide variety of academic disciplines has explored and explained the origins of domestication. For example, domestication has fascinated evolutionary biologists for decades because of the dramatic impact that artificial selection played in the evolution of traits in both domestic plants and animals.
Genomic information, extracted from both modern and archaeological samples have had a tremendous impact on our understanding of animal domestication, not only allowing us to better retrace their origin but also to understand fundamental evolutionary processes (e.g. the role of gene-flow from wild populations). Here I will present novel ancient genomics data-sets from world wide sampling of pigs and dogs and how this new source of data is revolutionising our understanding of their domestication history.


Pontus Skoglund – Learning about evolution from ancient genomes

Speaker: Dr. Pontus Skoglund (The Francis Crick Institute)

Title: Learning about evolution from ancient genomes

Where: Anatomy G04 Gavin de Beer LT, UCL (Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT)

When: 24th April 2018, 17:30


Evolution is defined as genetic change through time, and the only direct way to study such temporal processes in humans and other populations over longer time scales is through ancient DNA sequencing. In the past few years, ancient genomics has begun to fulfil its promise to revolutionise our understanding of the human past, and I will discuss current paradigms for authenticating, analysing, and interpreting ancient genomes. I will also provide examples from our recent research on the identification of selective sweeps and polygenic evolution using data from populations at different points in time, and how hypotheses about population history be tested directly with ancient DNA, such as during the spread of agriculture in Europe, Oceania, and Africa.

LERN Debate 2018 – Synthetic Biology

Recent technological advances are allowing scientists to redesign organisms or even build new life forms from scratch. This new developing area of research steps beyond traditional Genetic Modification (GM), to combine science and engineering in what is known as Synthetic Biology.

Technologies such as CRISPR-Cas are already allowing us to apply GM to a wide range of fields, from pest control to human genome editing. But these potential practical applications are huge, such as bioengineered micromachines/microorganisms that can destroy cancer cells, detect toxic chemicals or produce drugs that are otherwise incredibly difficult to obtain from nature.

Is society ready for this new discipline? Where should the limits be set? What are the benefits and the risks of these “by-design” organisms?

Four prominent researchers specialised in Synthetic Biology from different backgrounds will discuss these and other pressing questions in our annual debate organised in association with the Linnean Society.

  • Professor Robert Edwards (Head of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Newcastle)
  • Dr Pablo Carbonell (Senior Staff Scientist at the SynBioChem Centre, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology)
  • Dr Louise Horsfall (Senior Lecturer in Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh and EPSRC Early Career Fellow)
  • Professor Jim Dunwell (Professor of Plant Biotechnology at the University of Reading)

Date: 19th April 2018, from 5.30pm

Venue: The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF, United Kingdom

The event is free and open to all but registration is essential. Seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Follow this link to register

Stay tuned for further updates!

LERN Debate 2017 – Big Data

The reduction in price of processing capacity and data storage is allowing us to generate datasets of unmatched size and complexity. This is especially true for the evolutionary sciences, where ever-increasing datasets are fuelled by the improvement of image analysis and sequencing technologies. We now face the challenge of finding the best approaches to manage this accumulation of data. For instance, is it preferable to favour quantity over quality? Will our processing capacity catch up with the pace at which data is being generated?

Four prominent researchers specialised in Big Data will discuss these and other pressing questions regarding the future of evolutionary research in our annual debate organised in association with the Linnean Society:

  • Prof Christophe Dessimoz (University of Lausanne; University College London)
  • Prof Kate Jones (University College London)
  • Dr Nicholas Pound (Brunel University London)
  • Dr Vincent Smith (Natural History Museum, London)

Moderator: Kathryn Ford  (Brunel University London)


Date: Thursday 16 November 2017

Follow the link below for more information on the event and to access the registration page:

More updates coming soon!

Andrea Dixon – At the edge of the species: the effects of gene flow on fitness

Speaker: Dr. Andrea Dixon (Rothamsted)

Title: At the edge of the species: the effects of gene flow on fitness

Where: Medawar Building G02 Watson LT, UCL (Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT)

When: 25th April 2017, 18:30


Species ranges that are distributed across environmentally heterogeneous landscapes can be constrained by the efficacy of natural selection at range edges. Constraints on adaptation in range edge populations may arise because of small effective population size or because of an antagonism between divergent selection and gene flow. Mimulus bicolor, is an herbaceous spring annual constrained to the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California, USA. To understand if maladaptive gene flow or small effective population size limits the species’ range, we investigated if populations found at climatically divergent range edges and at the center of the range were locally adapted using a common garden experiment in climate-controlled chambers. We then assessed the consequences of gene flow into edge populations by comparing the fitness of hybrids to parents originating from the local edge environment. These common garden analyses were supported by coalescent analysis to estimate effective population size and gene flow between central and edge populations originating from the field. From the common garden experiment, our results suggest that the populations used in this study were not locally adapted and gene flow from central to edge populations increased hybrid fitness. In addition, edge populations were effectively smaller than central populations. Taken together, these results reject the hypothesis that the range limits reflect an antagonism between divergent selection and gene flow. The geographic distribution of M. bicolor, however, likely reflects the reduced efficacy of natural selection in effectively small populations inhabiting stressful range edge environments.