Real Time Evolution Consortium:
Tracking the tempo and mode of evolution over ecologically relevant temporal and spatial scales
Understanding the forces that shape hereditary variation within and between species is the central task of evolutionary biologists. Over the last 150 years, since the first publication of On The Origin, we have made tremendous strides in identifying that the dominant factors affecting genetic variation include stochastic processes such as drift and demography as well as the deterministic process of selection. However, the relative contribution of these forces in shaping patterns of genetic variation are largely unknown and attempts to build general models of evolution that favor one force over the other have led to some of the most vigorous debates in modern biology.
One of the main reasons that there is no general consensus about the predominance of selection, drift and demography is that, historically, there has been a deficit of spatially and temporally structured population genomic data. Data like these would allow researchers to explicitly test models of demography and selection by watching changes in allele and genotype frequency in real time. Clearly, with the advent of next generation sequencing technology, the potential for generating population genomic data has increased many orders of magnitude. However, what is currently lacking are available biological samples, relevant environmental metadata, a cohesive computational system to organize these data in a spatio-temporal framework, and venues to initiate collaborations amongst scientists to use these data to test specific hypotheses about the evolutionary process.
As an outgrowth of a 2012 NESCent Catalysis Meeting, we (Alan Bergland, Paul Schmidt, Dmitri Petrov) have formed a consortium of scientists to address the fundamental question, “What is the tempo and mode of evolution over ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales?” We argue that the best way to provide novel answers to this question is through the collaborative actions of a diverse group of scientists and through policies and cyber-infrastructure that promote open data to the broader scientific community. Recent efforts have focused on: 1) obtaining standardized collections of natural D. melanogaster populations from around the world as well as paired seasonal collections (spring through autumn) in a subset of locales; 2) producing high coverage, pooled genomic resequencing of these populations and associated analysis; 3) generating standardized, comprehensive phenotypic data (e.g., body size, stress tolerance, immune response, pigmentation) for isofemale lines derived from these collections.
These efforts are also parallel and complementary to those of the European Drosophila Population Genomics Consortium (DrosEU), organized by Josefa González, Martin Kapun and Thomas Flatt. One of our goals is to generate a long-lasting resource that will be highly accessed by researchers at a diversity of institutional settings and by teachers and students all of whom share the goal of understanding the evolutionary process in greater detail.
Some of the consortium collection sites for spatio-temporal analysis
Josefa Gonzalez Perez