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Dynamics of transposable elements

Transposable elements (TEs) are short stretches of DNA that selfishly propagate within genomes, even to the detriment of the host. They are responsible for diverse phenomena ranging from human diseases to environmental adaptation.
Species show a vast diversity in TE content both in terms of abundance and composition.

Why is the transposable element content so dramatically different between species? In our group we aim to answer this question at the macroevolutionary level, by comparing TE abundance between populations of closely related species, and at the microevolutionary level, by studying TE dynamics in experimentally evolving populations.

Novel approaches for unraveling the architecture of complex traits

Evolution acts on variation within species where qualitative variation, like eye color, and quantitative variation, like body size, can be distinguished. It is a major aim in biology to identify the molecular basis of this variation. Such an enhanced understanding of variation will, for example, help to improve the yield of crop plants and allow to custom tailor medical treatment to the unique genetic make-up of a patient.

While the genetic basis of most qualitative traits could be readily identified, unravelling the genetic basis of quantitative traits remains a challenge, some even argue the major challenge for biology in the 21th century. To meet this challenge we will explore the potential of novel, Next Generation Sequencing based, approaches for unravelling the genetic basis of complex traits.

Leveraging Next Generation Sequencing data analysis

While Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) holds enormous promise for biology, the analysis of the vast amounts of data still possess a challenge to many researchers. It is therefore our aim to contribute to democratizing the NGS revolution by making user-friendly software tools available to the community and thus to enable a wide range of researchers to take advantage of NGS data.

However, a typical problem with many bioinformatics tools is that they are simply not used. We think that this often happens if tools are not developed by practitioners in a field, so that demands of a field may not be entirely met or important biological cross-connections may be missed. To avoid this problem it is our basic principle to only develop tools that we need for our own research in genome evolution.