Evolution permeates all aspects of life and modern views of biology, from molecular interactions, genetic and non-genetic inheritance, development and its extensions, to inter-individual and population level processes, resulting in speciation and phylogenetic divergence. Using expert researchers, we pick the cherries from these disciplines and create an integrative course with a bottom-up approach (molecular-to-evolutionary process thinking), linked to a top-down perspective (explaining phylogenetics and biodiversity).
In the middle, sandwiched between these frameworks, is Evolutionary Ecology. Here we make theoretical use of molecular methods for tracing paternity and identifying poor (or superior) genetic combinations during selection in free-ranging animals, to understanding constraints to evolution (why it doesn’t happen when it should), how and why mate choice results in poor (or ‘perfect’) offspring, shorter or longer lifespan, why evolutionary rates can be extraordinarily rapid when you least expect, and why radiation of taxa sometimes happens while we watch in real time, and sometimes never at all (stasis).
These questions are rooted in evolutionary theory and statistical (quantitative) genetics, and developed into approaches for statistical control of phylogenetic dependence of important phenotypic traits. These methods are also critical for understanding paradigms and criteria for extinction avoidance in modern conservation biology. The course is held in English, which gives the broad range of advanced students with diverse interests from across Europe a chance to engage and forge friendships and networks for future interaction and collaboration in a ‘think-tank’ friendly environment.