Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: The changing landscape of ecology and evolutionary biology

Scarlet monkeyflower, Mimulus cardinalis, is one of the new “field model organisms” developed for research thanks to advances in DNA sequencing technology—and a whole lot of work. Photo by Al_HikesAZ.

This week at the collaborative science blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor David Hembry, who’s just completed his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology, reflects on how much has changed since he started his doctoral research—in terms of methods, study organisms, and who his key collaborators are.

Some of the transformations in the field I think I could see coming. For instance, it was clear in 2005 that computational power would keep increasing, phylogenetics would be used more and more to ask interesting questions, more and more genomes would be available for analysis, and evolutionary developmental biology was on the rise. It was unfortunately also predictable that it would be possible to study climate change in real time over PhD-length timescales. And although the 2008 global financial crisis didn’t help, it was clear that funding and jobs were going to be more competitive than they had been for our predecessors.

But there were a number of things I didn’t see coming, and which have made the field look radically different than it was back in 2005.

For a detailed look at the last seven years of advances and shifts in the ways we study descent with modification, go read the whole thing.◼