Marlies Dolezal is a quantitative geneticist and animal breeder. She has mapped QTLs using pedigree based and whole genome association analysis for a variety of production and fitness traits in livestock populations. Methodological work included the development of a new mapping technique for selective DNA pooling and combining population and quantitative genomics approaches to increase mapping power. Recent work has focussed on identifying and genetically characterizing copy number variants in cattle and pig populations.
Arndt von Haeseler
Professor, Center of Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna, Max F. Perutz Laboratories
Arndt von Haeseler has long standing research interest in understanding the theoretical foundations of molecular evolution. He puts special emphasis on modeling the evolutionary process on different levels of complexities. Besides modeling evolution he also uses evolutionary models to infer the past from data provided by contemporary organisms. To achieve these goals he applies methodological tools from Mathematics and Computer Sciences. Moreover, his group is involved in the development of bioinformatics platforms to handle large amount of data.
Group Leader at Institute of Population Genetics, Vetmeduni Vienna
Given the outstanding importance of transposable elements (TE) for genome evolution, adaptation to novel environments and human diseases, our knowledge about the evolution of TE dynamics is surprisingly limited. Why are some species, like Arabidopsis thaliana, almost free of transposons while for other species, like Paris japonica, transposons constitute bulk of the genome? Why are some species, like humans, mostly containing RNA transposons while other's like Caenorhabditis are mostly containing DNA transposons? It is my aim to shed light on the forces that drive the evolution of TE content and composition in different species. I approach these questions both at a macroevolutionary level, comparing the TE content in related species, and at a microevolutionary level, investigating TE activity in experimentally evolving populations.
I'm also interested in novel methods that allow to dissect the genetic basis of quantitative traits. Most of the variation of traits relevant in medicine, agriculture, sociobiology, ecology and evolution is quantitative. Understanding the genetic basis of such quantitative (or complex) traits is considered key for improving crop yield, leveraging personalized medicine and comprehending poorly understood evolutionary processes such as extinctions, adaptation, speciation, canalization and phenotypic plasticity. It is thus not surprising that unraveling the genetic basis of quantitative or complex traits is considered to be a key challenge for biology in the 21st century.
Group Leader, Vetmeduni Vienna
and University of St. Andrews (UK)
Carolin Kosiol's main interest is the development of new statistical methods of sequence evolution. During her PhD at the European Bioinformatics Institute she developed a tool to identify amino acid groupings from substitution models and she estimated a first empirical codon substitution model to improve the understanding of the patterns and pressures of protein evolution. Codon models are widely used to study natural selection between different species and to identify functional elements in genome-wide scans. During the last two years as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University she has contributed to several inter- and intra-species scans of selection.
Professor, Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, University of Vienna
Christian Lexer has broad interests in the evolutionary genomics of adaptation, speciation, and species radiations. He uses plants as his preferred study organisms because of the many advantages they offer, e.g. plants can be crossed and/or propagated fairly easily and their sessile nature facilitates the estimation of fitness effects (the ‘adaptive value’) of individual traits, chromosomal segments, or individual genetic loci in the wild. Christian´s group and collaborators have pioneered the application of genomic tools to studies of plant speciation and the evolutionary processes at work in hybrid zones. He currently runs a research program to address these topics in the model forest tree genus Populus (poplars, aspens, cottonwoods) and in model plant radiations situated in highly structured and species-rich environments (so-called biodiversity hot spots). This includes palms and bromeliads, two biologically interesting radiations with available reference genomes, which greatly facilitates genomic work spanning micro- and macro-evolutionary time scales.
Sylvain Mousset is a population geneticist with a general interest for statistical methods and theoretical models in evolutionary biology. His work has especially focussed on the detection of departure from neutrality in DNA polymorphism data, and disentangling the effects of selection from other evolutionary forces, such as demography or biased gene conversion. He recently got interest in the evolution of sex, sex chromosomes, and species diversification. He has shown that the apparent lack of diversity in dioecious plants may simply result of a statistical bias, and wants to develop further models of species diversification including inputs of population genetics theory.
Professor, Hochschule Mittweida
Former Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, University of Vienna
Kristan Schneider studies theoretical models for anti-malarial drug resistance, the most severe threat to malaria control and eradication efforts. By combining population dynamical with population genetic approaches he develops models for genetic hitchhiking, which are directly applicable to molecular data (microsatellite or SNP data). By this approach it is possible to reconstruct the evolutionary dynamics of drug-resistance associated mutations, even in the absence of reliable clinical or epidemiological data. This is the key to understand the evolution of drug resistance and guarantee successful malaria control/eradication. For Kristan research data analysis is equally important as mathematical modeling.
Furthermore, Kristan studies models of frequency-dependent selection, a form of selection in which the fitnesses of individuals (probability to survive from birth to age of reproduction) depend on the population’s composition. This form of selection arises naturally in many ecological scenarios. Kristan is interested in general properties of frequency-dependent selection as well as in applications to theoretical ecology and speciation.
Group Leader at Institute of Population Genetics, Vetmeduni Vienna
Kirsten-André Senti studies the ancient conflict between Transposable Elements (TEs) and their hosts. Most organisms sequenced to date harbor a substantial load of TE insertions in their genomes. In turn, TE invasions have triggered the evolution of host defenses against them. The main host defense in animals is the piRNA pathway that utilizes the PIWI clade of Argonaute proteins that are expressed in gonads. PIWI proteins are loaded with PIWI interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which guide the PIWI proteins by homology dependent basepairing to active TE transcripts to suppress them. piRNAs originate from precursor transcripts of specialized genomic loci, termed piRNAs clusters, that represent the host’s sequence archives of previous TE invasions.
The recent analysis of the piRNA pathway has unravelled the molecular mechanisms of host defense to a large extent, but has also provided novel insights into the biology of active TEs. Yet in the evolutionary arms race between TEs and host control, many questions remain open.
We use modern functional genetics, next generation sequencing and imaging techniques in Drosophila to tackle the following two questions:
- How does the piRNA pathway adapt to silence novel TE invasions?
- How do TEs adapt to the host biology to maximize their replication?
Associate Professor, Institute of Biophysics, Johannes Kepler University Linz
Irene Tiemann-Boege's main interest is to study how recombination and mutation are shaping the evolution of the genome. Throughout her career she has developed highly sensitive technologies to accurately characterize recombination and mutation processes, including a technology similar to next generation sequencing capable of analyzing in parallel millions of single molecules. With her expertise she contributed with experimental data to areas such as the paternal age-effect and recombination hotspots. Currently, she is working in the relationship between recombination and mutation and the role of recombination hotspots in the evolution of certain gene classes.
Group Leader at Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Vetmeduni Vienna
I am interested in the genetics of livestock, especially horses and specifically their male sex chromosome. The major part of the Y chromosome is transmitted from fathers to sons without recombination. It therefore perfectly mirrors male genealogies. I investigate naturally occurring Y-chromosomal sequence variation to trace the paternal ancestry of horses. Further I take the horse as a model to study evolutionary mechanisms on sex chromosomes and also work on the generation of draft assemblies for Y chromosomes using short read NGS data.
Professor, Life Science Institute, Zhejiang University
and Group Leader at Department of Molecular Evolution and Development, University of Vienna
Qi Zhou is interested at using the cutting-edge sequencing technology and functional approaches to study evolution of animal sex chromosomes. His studied species include the classic genetic model Drosophila, as well as birds, snakes and turtles. The major questions that he has been working to answer include: How do different animal species determine their sex, and what are the transitional mechanisms between these different sex systems? How do the sex-determining chromosomes evolve in their genomic sequence and epigenomic regulation? What are the roles of small RNAs during the sex chromosome evolution? These questions are at the interface of evolution, development and molecular biology. On one hand, he harnesses classic Drosophila model species for deep functional characterization of sex-specific genes, while studying other non-cononical models reveals general principles of sex chromosome evolution across different species. He has uncovered that genes experience rapid functional degeneration and masculinization on the Drosophila Y chromosome of recent ages. He has also reconstructed a fine history of recombination loss between bird Z and W sex chromosomes, based on analyses of 50 avian genomes.