Studying How Genes Evolve to Learn How Species Adapt
Many genomes are now known to scientists—including those of humans, mice, round worms, fruit flies and fish—and many others are in the process of being discovered. This new wealth of genome data is making it possible to compare genomes—and doing so can help us understand how species adapt in a changing world.
Dr. Ben Koop, Canada Research Chair in Genomics and Molecular Biology, studies molecular evolution. His goals are to understand the role of gene duplication or deletion and gene families in the evolution of species; to learn more about the role of genetic variation and mutation in health and disease; and to develop new techniques, strategies and analyses to explore genetic systems and relate them to biochemical and physiological functions.
To achieve these goals, he and his research team are working on three projects. One targets gene families and the mechanisms of evolutionary change. Here, his team is especially interested in the salmonid genomes (such as those of salmon and trout) that show exceptional new evolutionary potential for adaptation.
The second project involves examining genetic variation and conservation of a wide variety of vertebrate populations on the coast of British Columbia, particularly Pacific salmon and sturgeon. The third incorporates computer analysis into assessing and annotating population and genomic information.
Ultimately, Koop’s comparative approach to the study of genetic variations will lead to a deeper understanding of the patterns of genetic variation and of various species’ potential to adapt in a rapidly changing climate.