I will be organizing the American Society of Naturalists’ Vice Presidential Symposium next year, and think it would be fun to have the symposium focus on insights gained from system-based research. (Related: my old post on the merits of system-based research.) My thinking is to combine people who are working on well-established model systems (e.g., three spine sticklebacks, Arabidopsis, E. coli) with those working on more recently established systems (nascent model systems?). I’d like to include work that spans the breadth of the society (so, ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior). I also want the symposium to feature the work of early career scientists. That’s where you come in! Tell me who you think is doing really interesting and exciting system-based research. I’m especially interested in hearing about early career folks, and am super duper interested in learning about early career folks who’ve done work to establish new model systems.
To give a few of examples:
- María Rebolleda-Gómez has had a couple of recent papers using a well-established model system, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to address really interesting questions about the reversibility of evolution and on how ecology matters for the evolution of multicellularity.
- Ambika Kamath, one of the recipients of this year’s ASN Jasper Loftus-Hills Award, studied anoles for her dissertation research, including work finding that some early work on this model system may have led subsequent researchers astray. And
- Nina Wale, a postdoc in my lab, has been doing a lot of work to establish a bacterial parasite as a model system for work on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, including revealing really interesting color variation.
Of course, this all raises the question of what is system-based research and what is a model system? This is something I’m hoping to explore more in the future, but for now I will go with this definition by my colleague Luis Zaman, who said:
I usually think of [model systems] as an organism/population/community/ecosystem/model that has been studied from many different angle and/or for different purposes leading up to a body of knowledge that is greater than one person can (or should) know.
I like that definition!
Please put your suggestions of early career folks who are doing interesting work with model systems in the comments! I’m especially interested in people who might have some interesting results they’d be interested in presenting at the 2020 Evolution meetings. And if you’re thinking, “hmmm, I think *I* fit that description”, send me an email (duffymeg at umich dot edu). (You can also put your own name in the comments! I’m just guessing most people would feel more comfortable emailing instead.) And, if you have thoughts on what makes something a model system, including signs that something seems to be on its way to becoming a new model system, I’d love to hear those, too!