Each academic workshop will be preceded by a public lecture from one of the four biological experts speaking on the theme of the workshop from the vantage point of their own research program. This will be held on the campus of the University of Minnesota, co-sponsored with the College of Biological Sciences. The intended audience is the general scientific community at the University of Minnesota and the invited biological expert will spend time interacting with faculty, post-docs, and graduate students interested in the relevant domain of biological phenomena: development, evolutionary novelty, and evolvability.
What is evolvability and how does it matter?
David Houle, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida State University
Evolvability is a popular term in biology, but means very different things to different people. For some, it refers to the ability to predict the short-term ability to respond to selection. To others it is the ability to produce genetic variation that allows longer-term evolution. Finally, some treat it as those properties of genetic systems that allow the large evolutionary changes known as macroevolution. I will discuss two big questions at each of these levels. First, how should we go about measuring each of these types of evolvability? Second, is natural selection responsible for the existence or degree of evolvability? Or is evolvability an accidental or unavoidable property of biological systems shaped only indirectly by natural selection? My own work on fly wings suggests a surprising correspondence between evolvability at different time scales, and that evolvability may be an evolved property, and not just an entertaining accident.