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The Importance of Size in the Evolution of Complexity in Ants

Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:14:37 +0000

Ants are amongst the most abundant and successful species on Earth. They live in complex, cooperative societies, construct elaborate homes and exhibit many of the hallmarks of our own society. Some ants farm crops, others tend livestock. Many species have a major impact on the ecosystems they live in, dispersing seeds, consuming huge quantities of […]

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Understanding Catfish Colonisation and Diversification in The Great African Lakes

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 10:29:42 +0000

Why some regions or habitats contain vast, diverse communities of species, whilst others contain only relatively few species, continues to be the subject of scientific research attempting to understand the processes and conditions that allow and adaptive radiation. The Great African Lakes exist as freshwater ‘islands’, with spectacularly high levels of biodiversity and endemism. They […]

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Sex Differentiation Begins During Early Development

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:04:57 +0000

Males and females look different from each other, and these sexual dimorphisms are the result, largely, of sex differences in the expression of certain genes. Typically, scientists have studied sexual dimorphism in sexually mature adult animals, as this is the lifestage where differences are most apparent. However, many sex-specific phenotypes arise from sex-biased development, so […]

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Extinction and Species Declines:Defaunation in the Anthropocene

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:35:52 +0000

We are in the grips of a mass extinction. There have been mass extinctions throughout evolutionary history, what makes this one different is that we’re the ones causing it. A recent review paper from GEE’s Dr Ben Collen discusses the current loss of biodiversity and suggests that our main concerns are species and population declines, […]

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Defaunation in the Anthropocene
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Evolving Endemism in East Africa’s Sky Islands

Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:16:32 +0000

The World’s biodiversity is not evenly distributed. Some regions are hot spots for species richness, and biologists have been trying better to understand why these regions are special and what drives evolution and diversification. A recent paper by GEE’s Dr Julia Day and recent PhD graduate Dr Siobhan Cox, investigated the diversification of White-Eye Birds […]

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MRC Career Development Award for Doug Speed

3 February 2014

Congratulations to Doug Speed who has been successful in gaining an MRC career development award in biostatistics.

The MRC has identified advanced biostatistics as a methodology of strategic importance to UK science.  The MRC Biostatistics Fellowship is one of a number of qualitative and quantitative schemes supported by the MRC under the Strategic Skills Fellowships banner. The scheme expects to make up to 3 awards a year.

The aim of the scheme is to encourage broad training programmes in biostatistics to support talented researchers who have recently completed their PhDs and wish to move into statistically based health related research.

The aim of Doug's fellowship is to develop methods for better understanding the genetics behind complex traits, then to apply these methods to improve prediction and classification of diseases. There are many diseases which we know to be highly heritable, but for which we have struggled to understand the genetic factors influencing risk.  For example, twin and family studies have shown that at least 50% of an individual's risk of developing epilepsy can be explained by genetics, but so far, we have discovered only a handful of genetic mutations impacting risk which in total explain less than 1% of the variation.

To better understand these diseases, we need to devise methods which allow for the fact that there are likely to be many hundreds, if not thousands, of variants affecting risk. Even though we are unlikely to discover the majority of these, we can still benefit greatly by determining which types of variants are causal. This information can then be accommodated in prediction models, which can be used to select individuals at high risk of developing a condition, and also for classification; many diseases, especially neurological traits, are highly heterogeneous, so diagnoses and prognoses will benefit by being able to use genetics to group individuals into subtypes.


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