- ENVIRON 590S-105 (9521) / GENOME 590S-01 (9761)
- Next time offered: Spring semester 2013, Mon 3:05PM – 5:40PM; L.S.R.C. A312
- Discussion-based seminar, focusing on critical analysis of primary literature.
- Instructor: J. Wernegreen
- 2 Units
- Open to graduate students (Ph.D. and master’s students) and advanced undergraduates.
Previously offered: Spring 2011, as ENVIRON 298S – 105 (9501)
In this seminar course, we will explore how genomic approaches are impacting research in ecology and environmental biology. The widened accessibility of genomic techniques, particularly “next-generation” approaches, has generated the new field of ecological genomics. This area is broadly defined as “an integrative field… that seeks to understand the genetic mechanisms underlying responses of organisms to their natural environment” (Renn and Seimens, 2010). While this sounds like a laudable endeavor, it also deserves some healthy skepticism and critical analysis.
Thoughtful application of genomic approaches has potential utility in ecological and environmental studies; however, like any technique, its value depends the specific research question, which must be clearly articulated.
Focusing on recent case studies in the primary literature, we will make a simple inquiry: Does genomic data let us address key biological questions in novel and significant ways? By critiquing recent studies and our own original research proposals, we will identify situations when a genome-wide sample can make a qualitative difference in the insights gained. We will also highlight cases where more molecular data – and a deluge of it, for that matter – is not necessarily better. Students in the course will select the specific case studies and articles we discuss.
Broad leaning goals:
- Refine critical and creative thinking skills, via proposal writing, oral presentation, collaboration, and critique of peers’ work.
- Critically evaluate the potential value and limitations of genomic approaches in answering central questions in ecology and environmental biology.
- Understand how a genomic perspective lets us reframe classic biological questions.
- Anticipate new research questions in ecology and environmental biology that a genome-wide perspective may generate.
Specific material covered:
- What do we mean by a ‘genomic approach’ in ecology and environmental sciences? Does this phrase reflect shifts in approaches, data sizes, and/or perspective?
- Genomic techniques: molecular methods underlying them, types of data they provide, strengths and limitations. (Although the course is not a “methods class,” some understanding of techniques is required to critically evaluate their use.)
- What are the most promising approaches and the major challenges in data storage, handling, and analysis?
- What are the potential value and limitations of genomic approaches in very specific situations?
For more information, please contact Jen Wernegreen (firstname.lastname@example.org).