"From the genome to the tree of life"

With the support of the National Science Foundation (Research Coordination Network Grant DEB-0090227):


  • The green plants represent one of the biggest branches of the tree of life -- more than 1/2 million species -- a clade at least 1 billion years old. Their morphological and chemical diversity, ecological dominance, and importance in human affairs (for food, shelter, and medicines) are paramount among life's lineages. A recently improved understanding of their phylogeny generated from the efforts of the "Deep Green" collaboration not only allows the intellectual satisfaction of discovering the "roots" of this major component of the world's biotic diversity, but also has important practical benefits as well. Likewise, the ongoing genomics projects on Arabidopsis and diverse crop plants provide an unprecedented basis for comparative genomics to identify, isolate, and determine the function of plant genes that are associated with both vegetative and reproductive phenotypes.
  • These two areas of research have so far proceeded entirely separately, but are poised for a synthesis. Both groups of researchers could benefit greatly from increased communication and collaboration. The goal of this project, established in February 2001 with generous support from the US National Science Foundation, is to explore ways in which comparative phylogenetic studies can inform genomic studies, and vice-versa. The group will foster a series of professional meetings, workshops, training activities for K-12 teachers, undergraduates, and graduate students, and this web site which will contain information for professional scientists as well as educational materials for the general public.
  • The project is designed to facilitate a new, well-coordinated, cohesive scientific community that will be able to use this phylogenetic and genomics information for such new applications as predicting the evolution of biochemical pathways, identifying gene duplications and promoter evolution contributing to morphological changes, predicting useful chemicals for pharmacology, selecting promising genes for biotechnology studies, and carrying out comparative functional and genomic studies. The fruits of such collaboration will include: new tools for assessing plant relationships, new comparative approaches to functional questions combining data from phylogenetics and genomics, and enhanced training of scientists at all levels.

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