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Ecological diversity and evolutionary networks


Biological systems and their highly organized constituents are paradigms of Complexity. The study of Complex Networks, representing interactions among components, has become central in the science of Complex Systems. The EDEN proposal aims at considering in depth the representation of ecological and evolutionary relationships among biological entities -organisms, populations, taxa- in terms of networks by developing methods to construct them from genetic data and by expanding the toolbox for their analysis.

Evolutionary relationships between species are usually represented in phylogenies, i.e. evolutionary trees. Intraspecific gene genealogies and population structure are also conventionally represented as tree-like objects. However, processes such as sexual reproduction or lateral gene transfer introduce cycles and need richer structures -networks- to be properly represented. EDEN will develop tools to build networks of ecological and of evolutionary relationships from genetic data, and study them with the modern methods of network theory.

More specifically, EDEN will focus on:
- Networks of genetic diversity, constructed from genetic data of a large sample of marine plants in coastal ecosystems. Innovative network methods will be developed to address questions on population structure, gene flow, evolution, biogeography and conservation of these threatened ecosystems.
- The tools of reticulate evolution, and novel approaches based on network theory will be used to build and analyze phylogenies with rich structure beyond trees.

The aim is to gain biological insight on the evolution of life, from specific lineages to the entire spectrum of life forms, by evolving from the present concept of a `Tree of Life' to a more flexible concept of `Network of Life'. The synergy between extensive data collection and analysis together with individual-based modeling (including genetic, ecological, and spatial factors) will be pursued in all these focus cases.

Call for proposal

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Campus Universitat de les Illes Balears, Son Lledo

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