Where to Next with The Tree of Life?

ATOL scheduleATOL report

The National Science Foundation "Assembling the Tree of Life" Program has been a great success that has focused public interest on systematics and evolution and spurred significant research work in these fields. The last NSF-funded workshop to discuss the aims of this program was held in 2004. Now after completion of the 2007 funding cycle it is an appropriate time to revisit the issue of Program aims in light of significant advances that have occurred in related fields of enquiry such as genomics, evolution of development, and biodiversity research. In particular, the demonstrated role of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in generating reticulate relationships among prokaryotes has brought into question the existence of a single universal tree of life. Is the prokaryote model appropriate for eukaryotes, if not, then what other fundamental issues stand in the way of generating a single, well-resolved tree of eukaryotes? We need to assess how best to incorporate these emerging ideas and tools into the AToL Program while maintaining the existing strong commitment to systematics and phylogenetics that has been its trademark. This workshop will explore these and other areas of contemporary research to aid the NSF in planning the future of the AToL Program. An international group of invited scientists will present their work and its potential relationship and contribution to the AToL Program that will be followed by open discussions.