Event Detail

The Evolution of Developmental Processes

4th Summer School in Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Sep 28 to Oct 01, 2015

Venezia, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
Organized by: Alessandro Minelli Gerd B. Müller, and Giuseppe Fusco
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Topic Description

School sponsors

Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti & Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Vienna

Teaching panel

J. Jaeger (School Director, CRG Barcelona), P. Beldade (Gulbenkian Institute, Lisbon), G.E. Budd (University of Uppsala), G. Fusco (University of Padova), R. Jenner (Natural History Museum, London), A. Khila (Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon), A. McGregor (Oxford Brookes University), A. Minelli (University of Padova), C. Mirth (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Oeiras, Portugal), G.B. Müller (Konrad Lorenz Institute, Vienna, and University of Vienna), A. Peel (University of Leeds)


Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Palazzo Franchetti (http://www.palazzofranchetti.it/en/)

Course outline

Evolution and development are two aspects of the same underlying dynamic. While morphological evolution occurs through changes in the underlying developmental processes, the regulatory structure of these processes in turn influences rate and direction of phenotypic change. Studying the complex feedback between development and evolution requires moving beyond qualitative comparative analysis of gene expression and key regulatory factors towards quantitative network-level studies of evolving developmental systems. This transition poses a number of considerable conceptual and methodological challenges.

This course will expose its participants to these challenges, with the aim of providing PhD students and postdocs interested in evo-devo with the methodological and conceptual toolkit required to face them. This year’s course is centred on approaches that explicitly acknowledge the processual nature of evolution and development. It will start with a brief introduction to key concepts of process philosophy, which provide a unifying general conceptual framework for a possible extended synthesis for evolutionary biology. We will discuss problems of phylogenetics and the choice of model organisms as a necessary practical prerequisite for any investigation into evo-devo. The following three days of the course will cover different approaches to the study of developmental evolution. First, we will cover regulatory evolution and how it results in altered developmental dynamics and phenotypic variation. Second, we will introduce concepts and approaches that deal with higher-level organisation in evolving developmental systems. And finally, we will explore the interaction of ecology and evo-devo. Throughout the course, we will touch on central concepts such as evolvability, robustness, and phenotypic plasticity and their respective roles in evolution.

The course will follow a structure in which lectures by the invited speakers in the morning will alternate with participatory activities such as journal clubs and discussions on specific topics in small groups in the afternoons (moderated by teachers). The course will also feature a practical session on building phylogenetic trees. On the final day, small groups of students will present small, virtual grant proposals to address specific challenges and open questions. These projects will be judged and criticized by an expert panel consisting of the invited teachers. We will conclude the course with a plenary discussion on how to integrate the diverse topics covered during the week into a unified theoretical framework with the aim of extending existing evolutionary theory.

Who can apply

The course is designed for PhD students and post-doctoral researchers involved or interested in evo-devo research. The maximum number of participants is 30. Preference will be given on the basis of actual involvement in evo-devo research, personal motivation, and CV. Organizers will also try to maximize the number of research groups involved, thus discouraging massive participation of students from the same laboratory.