The last weeks have been quite busy for the group. Firstly, it grew quite significantly with the recent addition of three very promising PhD students: Miles (genomics of host-parasite interactions), Perla (mathematical characterization of turtle movement) and Leila (evolution of feeding strategies in turtles). Seeing new group members integrating a running lab is always fascinating, but also quite scary, as group cohesion has to be maintained - a crucial aspect for a vibrant environment. So far, it seems that everything is going well. The “old” group members are sharing their experience and the new ones are discovering the hidden, but demanding, sides of complex research projects (no need to say that PIs can also be demanding).
Secondly, we have been lucky to welcome visitors from collaborator labs: Loukas Theodosiou (from Lutz Becks' lab at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology) and Britta Meyer (from GEOMAR Kiel and the department of Thorsten Reusch). Loukas shared his enthusiasm for every aspect of evolution and gave a fascinating talk on when eco-evo dynamics should be expected. Eco-evo dynamics is a relatively new field of evolution that the lab is investigating following our promising start (see Brunner et al 2017 PNAS). In recent years though, it feels that all reports about eco-evo dynamics are positive and revealed the importance of feedbacks between ecology and evolution for species’ evolution. But how many studies are not published and therefore do not report that eco-evo feedbacks have not been identified? Asking when eco-evo feedbacks are to be expected is a key question to improve our understanding of both ecological dynamics and species’ evolution.
Britta’s visit was intense and productive. Britta and Kostas worked together on the large genome-wide methylation dataset collected from experimental infection as well as natural populations exposed to various salinities. Britta has shared with us her immense technical knowledge on how to analyse methylation patterns. She has also motivated many discussions on the expectations of methylation processes in species’ evolution – should it accelerate adaptation or rather buffer effects of natural selection, hence slowing adaptation in unpredictable environments? This is what we are currently determining.
I can’t thank Britta and Loukas enough for visiting us and bringing new thoughts. I am a fan of lab visits. I hope that the current group members will have the opportunities to visit collaborators to come back with plenty of new ideas to maintain the current stimulating environment in the group.