Ecological and Evolutionary Functional Genomics (EuroEEFG)

Background and Objectives

The unprecedented scope of genomic information allows ecologists and evolutionary biologists to gain new perspectives on the genes that matter in the environment. This includes insights into the role of genes and their regulation in such varied processes as stress responses (e.g., climate change, temperature, parasites, pathogens, herbivores and contaminants) and the mapping between genotype and phenotype (in, e.g., development, life histories, adaptive population divergence, ecotypic differentiation, and speciation).

At the molecular evolutionary level, comparative genomics across species is uncovering the architectural aspects of the genome that influence important evolutionary processes such as gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, adaptive variation for cis and trans effects upon transcriptional regulation, and ultimately speciation. Similarly, genomics tools applied to experimental evolution of key species in the laboratory allows many of these same questions, as well as questions related to short-term adaptive and neutral evolution, to be addressed under highly controlled conditions.

At the other end of the spectrum, field ecologists need to be able to identify and track cells and organisms, e.g., using phylochips and functional gene chips, to assess evolutionary change in ecosystems. Transcriptomics and metagenomics are revolutionizing community genetics of microorganisms and our overall understanding of multitrophic organization of entire communities and, in the foreseeable future, ecosystems. In short, a great deal of integrative state-of-the-art research is waiting as genomics tools come on line.

The EUROCORES Programme “Ecological and Evolutionary Functional Genomics” (EuroEEFG) will provide the necessary framework and funding for top-quality European research and will allow research groups to enter into high profile collaborations. This in turn, will help to envelop a large section of ecology and evolution research leading to a wider comparative analysis of pattern and process, and ultimately to a more successful scientifically-based management of ecological resources. Multidisciplinary research platforms will enable to generate the coordinated approach which is needed. European scientists are currently at the forefront of this line of investigations and are well placed to explore and exploit this new research field of ecological functional genomics.