How evolution saves lives and promotes prosperity
Phylogeny, tree-thinking, and solving problems
Identifying emerging viruses
Phylogenetic trees are predictive tools. They represent the expectation that close relatives share characteristics not found in more distant relatives. If we plot similarities and differences on a tree, we have a hypothesis of how these characters change across evolutionary time. Understanding this change—whether in anatomical, behavioral, or molecular characters—has many applications. For example, studying the change in influenza genes are important for designing vaccines and tracing the spread of disease.
Predicting outbreaks: Hantavirus
Saving people from snakebite
Feeding the world's people is one of humanity's greatest challenges, and that task is becoming more difficult as the climate changes, soils are increasingly depleted, and humans continue to stress our ecological support systems. For thousands of years, as humans moved around the world, they met the challenges of changing environments by modifying domesticated crops and animals through interbreeding. Identifying the closest wild relatives of these domesticates is extremely important, for often they live in novel or marginal environments and possess genetic adaptations not found in domesticates. Interbreeding domesticates with close wild relatives interjects genetic architectures that often improve crop yields or protect from disease.