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Gee Research Blog

It Pays to Be Different:Evolutionary Distinctiveness and Conservation Priorities

Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:15:25 +0000

The world is currently experiencing an extinction crisis. A mass extinction on a scale not seen since the dinosaurs. While conservationists work tirelessly to try and protect the World’s biodiversity, it will not be possible to save everything, and it is important to focus conservation efforts intelligently. Evolutionary distinctiveness is a measure of how isolated [...]

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Synthetic Biology and Conservation

Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:20:18 +0000

Synthetic biology, a hybrid between Engineering and Biology, is an emerging field of research promising to change the way we think about manufacturing, medicine, food production, and even conservation and sustainability. A review paper released this month in Oryx, authored by Dr Kent Redford, Professor William Adams, Dr Rob Carlson, Bertina Ceccarelli and CBER’s Professor [...]

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Measure Twice, Cut Once: Quantifying Biases in Sexual Selection Studies

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:44:30 +0000

Bateman’s principles are conceptually quite simple, but form the basis of our understanding of sexual selection across the animal kingdom. First proposed in 1948, Bateman’s three principles posit that sexual selection is more intense in males than in females for three reasons: 1) males show more variability in the number of mates they have (mating [...]

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Technology for Nature?

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:23:54 +0000

Many of our greatest technological advances have tended to mark disaster for nature. Cars guzzle fossil fuels and contribute to global warming; industrialised farming practices cause habitat loss and pollution; computers and mobile phones require harmful mining procedures to harvest rare metals. But increasingly, ecologists and conservation biologists are asking whether we can use technology [...]

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Nice Flies Don’t Finish Last: Meiotic Drive and Sexual Selection in Stalk-Eyed Flies

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:54:47 +0000

While it might seem as though our genes are all working together for our own good, some of them are actually rather selfish. Scientists have known about ‘selfish genetic elements’ for nearly a century, but research to understand their behaviour and effects is ongoing. Recent research in GEE reveals how sexually selected traits are signalling [...]

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Media (in alphabetical order)

ANJALI GOSWAMI

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Anjali Goswami is currently a joint lecturer in palaeobiology in the Department of Genetics, Evolution, and Environment and the Department of Earth Sciences. She is also affiliated with the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and currently serves as the Environmental Biology stream representative for the Natural Sciences program.  Outside of UCL, she serves as  co-chair of the Scientific Program Committee and is a member of the media response team for the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology.   Her main research interests are in mammalian evolution and development, especially using morphometric methods to incorporate data from embryos to fossils to test genetic and developmental hypotheses of modularity and morphological diversity.

'Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form, and Function' (A. Goswami and A. Friscia, eds.), was published by Cambridge University Press as the first volume in their new series 'Cambridge Studies in Morphology and Molecules: New Paradigms in Evolutionary Biology'.


A Goswami Carnivoran Evolution book cover


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STEVE JONES

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Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics, in his most recent book 'Darwin's Island: the Galapagos in the Garden of England' completed the ambitious and perhaps misled scheme to update the whole of Darwin's scientific writings for the bicentennial of the great man's birth in 2009. He is the author of popular books on genetics for specialist and lay audiences. including 'Coral: a Pessimist in Paradise', which traces the decline and fall of the reefs and the unexpected science that emerges from the simple animals that make them, 'The Single Helix', 'Y: The Descent of Men',  'Almost Like a Whale', 'In the Blood' and 'The Language of Genes'.

Steve Jones teaches on our first year undergraduate course 'Genes to Organisms', about genetics and evolution and in our second year 'Introduction to Human Genetics' course.

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NICK LANE

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Nick Lane is a biochemist and writer. He holds the first Provost's Venture Research Fellowship in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, and is a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research. His research is on the role of bioenergetics in the origin and evolution of complex life.  He is the author of four popular science books and numerous scientific publications.  His most recent book 'Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution' (Profile/Norton 2009) is a celebration of the inventiveness of life, and of our own ability to read the deep past to reconstruct the history of life on earth. The great inventions are: the origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death.

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LINDA PARTRIDGE

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Linda Partridge, Weldon Professor of Biometry and Director of The Institute of Healthy Ageing, regularly appears on television and radio talking about her research into ageing as well as providing advice to programme makers on the same.Her TV appearances range from programmes such as the BBC Nine O'clock News  and Newsnight to Channel 4's 'Millennium Minds' in which she outlined the contribution of Charles Darwin to science.  For radio, she has participated in a wide variety of shows from the News, The Today Programme, Melvyn Bragg's 'In our Time', Science Now, the World Service, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, discussing her own and other people's research.

She is the author of numerous papers and books on the subject of the Genetics of Ageing using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as her model organism and lectures on our third year Biology of Ageing undergraduate course.

Linda Partridge is the recipient of many awards, including giving the Royal Society Croonian Prize Lecture in May 2009 and her recent DBE for services to science.

ANDREW POMIANKOWSKI

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Andrew Pomiankowski, Professor of Genetics and Director of CoMPLEX, succeeded Prof Steve Jones as Head of Department, GEE, in June 2010.

His research addresses evolutionary questions primarily in the area of sexual selection. One of the key questions he has been working on is the evolution of female mate preferences for exaggerated male sexual traits used in courtship display. In addition, his recent theoretical work has investigated sex determination and the evolution of gene networks, genomic imprinting of sex chromosomes, and the consequences of intra-genomic conflicts.

He co-authored with Mark Pagel, the popular text 'Evolutionary Genomics and Proteomics' which is the first major review of developments in the rapidly growing areas of genomics and proteomics, with particular emphasis on placing these fields in an evolutionary context. With a growing understanding of genes, their diversity and regulation, and how their products work together in networks of interacting elements, a new era of biology is emerging.

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MARK THOMAS

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Mark Thomas, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, featured in the Channel 4 television series Britain AD: King Arthur's Britain and on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme where he discussed the origins of the people of England, on ITV News at Ten and BBC News 24 where he discussed mammoth DNA, on Channel 4 News where he discussed the recovery of the genome of an ancient Greenlander, and on Sky News where he discussed various aspects of getting DNA from fossils.  He has also been involved in television programmes on, among other subjects, the fate of the lost descendents of George III, the origins of the Lemba, a tribe in South Africa that claims Jewish ancestry, and the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees. He was interviewed on the following TV programmes in 2007:

* James May's 20th Century Body Fantastic on BBC2
* Horizon - Chimps are Human Too on BBC2
* 100% English on Channel 4
* Royal Roots on Sky 1

In addition to being consulted regularly on radio and TV, a number of Mark’s own studies have attracted media attention. These studies include: showing that Early Europeans could not drink milk, that milk drinking started in Central Europe, and that we still cannot explain why many people in the world can drink milk; providing evidence that early Anglo-Saxon England was an apartheid-like society; showing that Europe's first farmers replaced their Stone Age hunter-gatherer forerunners; showing that the extinct giant Irish elk was the closest relative is the living fallow deer; and showing that population density and migration were critical factors in the emergence of modern human behaviour (the latter study was also covered in The Economist).

Mark teaches molecular and evolutionary genetics to second year, third year and masters students in GEE as well as in the medical school and the departments Archaeology and Anthropology. Mark's research encompasses human genetics, genetic studies of human population movements, studies of ancient DNA, and cultural evolution.

Also visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/mace-lab/publicity