Three leading researchers in evolutionary biology and biodiversity will explore pressing current issues in one of the most important projects in contemporary science—the quest to understand the fundamental evolutionary relationships among species—at the 2012 Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Symposium on Wednesday, June 20, at The New York Botanical Garden.
Ever since Charles Darwin sketched a simple tree to illustrate how species are related, scientists have endeavored to construct a "tree of life" that traces the evolutionary ancestry of related species. The advent of fast, reliable DNA sequencing and dramatically increased computing capacity has transformed that endeavor, allowing researchers to discover relationships among species at the molecular level.
The Cullman Symposium, "Assembling the Tree of Life," will cover such subjects as the significance of the tree of life as a scientific endeavor with practical applications, the impact it is having on environmental research and information technology, and its potential to help address a wide array of problems, from climate change to human disease.
Quentin Wheeler, Ph.D., Founding Director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, will discuss his experiences as the former director of the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation, where he was responsible for launching the Assembling the Tree of Life (AToL) program.
Sandra Knapp, Ph.D., Merit Researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, will talk about the importance of understanding the species at the tips of the tree of life, not just its branching patterns, in using tree-of-life information to conserve plant diversity.
Dennis Stevenson, Ph.D., the Botanical Garden's Vice President for Laboratory Research, will draw on his extensive research as a leading evolutionary botanist to show how understanding evolutionary problem solving at the genetic level could help address such current problems as species conservation, climate change, and even human diseases.
From June 16th to June 22nd, the Garden is hosting scientists from around the world who study one of the oldest but often overlooked forms of plant life on Earth--mosses. This group of plants, called bryophytes, was a pivotal step in the evolution of plants from water to land, and their significance in maintaining healthy ecosystems and preserving biodiversity is increasingly recognized.
The weeklong series of scientific presentations and lectures encompasses two separate conferences and the Cullman Symposium, which is held every other year at the Garden to inform a diverse audience, ranging from scientists to the general public, about the latest advances in molecular biology.
The first conference, Moss 2012, runs from June 16th to June 18th and is devoted to exploring the latest research into the genetic makeup of mosses. The 3rd International Symposium on Molecular Systematics of Bryophytes follows from June 20th to June 22nd and focuses on the evolution of mosses.
The Garden's Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics is a world leader in plant-evolution research. The Cullman Program and the Garden's living and preserved plant collections play invaluable roles in large, multi-institutional projects to elucidate major branches of the tree of life.
EVENT DETAILS: The 2012 Cullman Symposium
WHERE: Ross Hall, The New York Botanical Garden; Bronx River Parkway (Exit 7W) and Fordham Road; Bronx, New York.
WHEN: Wednesday, June 20, 2:15- 3:45 p.m.
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