John Maynard Smith Prize Lecture 2011

The genetics of adaptation to changing environments

Rowan Barrett

Harvard University, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Cambridge, United States.

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Summary statement: The genetics of adaptation: combining theory, lab and field studies to understand the mechanisms that drive ecological and evolutionary responses to changing environments.

Human activities are resulting in extensive worldwide changes to ecosystems, with both ecological and evolutionary consequences. Understanding the process of adaptation to changing environments requires integrative studies that combine approaches from population genetics, evolutionary ecology and molecular biology. Here, I present theoretical, laboratory and field studies with microbes and fish that help to determine the genetic basis, ecological mechanisms, and evolutionary effects of rapid adaptation to changing environments. The work involves direct measures of natural selection acting at the molecular level, thus providing crucial information on the functional links among genotype, phenotype, and fitness. This research is helping to identify some of the primary mechanisms that are likely to drive adaptation to global environmental change.



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