Plenary Speakers

Dr. Susan Johnston

University of Edinburgh


The causes and consequences of recombination rate variation in vertebrates


Prof. Kirsten Bomblies

ETH Zurich


How to tango with four - using genome scan data forwards and backwards to understand adaptation to genome duplication

Genome duplication not only increases the size of the genome, by affecting cell size, it affects the core biology of cells and thus organisms. What kinds of challenges do genome duplications cause? And what kinds of solutions evolve in established polyploids in nature? I will discuss how we have been capitalising on genome scans for selection in autotetraploid Arabidopdis arenosa as a starting point to understand known traits (a “forward” approach), as well as a “reverse” approach that has allowed us to identify and understand novel traits.

Dr. Adam Rutherford

University College London


Eugenics, and the Misuse of Mendel

The emergence and translation of Mendel’s discoveries about genetics into English coincided with the rise of both population genetics and eugenics. The overlap between this scientific field and the political ideology of eugenics is striking, and Mendel's new genetics provided eugenics' most devoted apostles with a biological mechanism to justify their bigotry. A robust but naive commitment to mendelian pedigrees formed the pseudoscientific basis for mass sterilization and genocide. We now have a much more sophisticated understanding of human genetics, but this eugenic spectre limps on in our culture and teaching, reinforcing a view of biology that is simplistic, deterministic and wrong. It is incumbent upon us to serve future geneticists and the public understanding of genetics an education which does not unwittingly reinforce outdated and pernicious ideas from our history.

Dr. Denise Kühnert

Max Planck Institute & Robert Koch Institute

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Virus evolution and transmission dynamics - integrating phylodynamics and machine learning to overcome computational challenges


Prof. Mark Kirkpatrick

University of Texas


The Genomic War Between the Sexes

Differences between the sexes can be profound, and in many cases natural selection favors them to be even greater. I will talk about “sexually antagonistic selection” that favors these differences: how it is currently acting on humans, and causing measurable mortality. This kind of selection may also explain why females in humans (but not all other animals) live longer than males, and how the dramatic differences between the X and Y sex chromosomes may have evolved.