bioGENESIS holds annual meeting in Montreal

Shells on display at the Redpath Museum of McGill University, site of a recent meeting of the bioGENESIS project. Photo: Curious Expeditions via Flickr
This month, researchers gathered at McGill University to take part in a meeting examining the evolutionary basis of biodiversity science.

BioGENESIS, a Global Research Project of Future Earth, held the annual meeting of its Steering Committee in Montreal, Canada, from 13 to 15 November 2017. The project explores the implications of evolutionary dynamics for protecting the planet’s biodiversity. It held a symposium on the “Evolutionary Foundations of Biodiversity Science” in the beautiful Redpath Museum of McGill University. The event was hosted by Andrew Hendry of McGill.

The Redpath Museum exhibits the geological history of life, from stromatolites formed by cyanobacteria to endangered species living today. It was the perfect site for a symposium that highlighted past and ongoing evolutionary dynamics as basis of all life on Earth, and the inevitable links between evolutionary dynamics and biodiversity science. Some speakers also provided food for thought on the role of evolution in broader sustainability science.

Participants in the bioGENESIS meeting post for a photo. From left to right: Caroline Souffreau, Dan Faith, Felix Forrest, Ella Vazquez Dominguez, Craig Starger, Luc DeMeester and Cornelia Krug. Photo: Paula Monroy

Carlos Jaramillo (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) brought up data from the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum, a warm period in Earth’s history that began about 17 million years ago. Jaramillo use this data to give a geologic perspective on current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to discuss how tropical forests respond to such changes. Felix Forest (Kew Botanical Gardens), Vicki Friesen (Queens University), Ella Vazquez (Universidad Autónoma de Mexico) and Dan Faith (The Australian Museum) stressed the importance of past evolutionary dynamics in determining the diversity and distributions of modern species. They also addressed the difficulties of understanding the mechanisms behind the patterns that scientists observe today, with examples taken from gymnosperms, birds and crocodiles.

Luc De Meester (KU Leuven) talked about the impact of rapid evolution in contemporary times, showing how water fleas are adapting to climate change and urban heat islands. Rees Kassen (University of Ottawa) discussed his research examining the fast diversification of bacterial pathogens in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis.

To learn more about or to get involved in the work of bioGENESIS, contact Caroline Souffreau at caroline.souffreau@kuleuven.be.