VW Status Symposium
VW Status Symposium in Evolutionary Biology - May 9-12, 2010
This year, the Volkswagen Foundation has asked the Graduate School in Evolution, Ecology and Systematics (EES), Faculty of Biology, University of Munich, to organize the annual VW Status Symposium in Evolutionary Biology. The meeting will take place between the 9th and 12th of May, 2010. The aim of this event is to gather senior researchers, post-docs, PhD and Master's students in the fields of evolutionary biology to encourage the exchange of research experiences and provide brainstorming opportunities. This event is sponsored by the Volkswagen foundation, which also supports the EES program.
What to Bring
Please bring some money (cash, not cards) with you to the island - there are no cash machines on the island. In the evenings, there will be a self-service bar set up where you can purchase beer and wine (at very reasonable prices). Also, the abbey shop has some nice souvenirs (including the nuns' homemade marzipan and liquor), and there some other small shops around the island. You may also want to visit the Herreninsel during our after-lunch break on Tuesday.
Schedule of Events
A NEW schedule of events can be downloaded as a PDF.
Here is a PDF of our symposium booklet - we'll be handing those out when you arrive.
Nick Barton (Edinburgh, Scotland & Vienna, Austria): Hybrid zones, speciation, and multi-locus evolution
The evolution of strong reproductive isolation
How can strong reproductive isolation evolve? This is easy to understand when the diverging populations are allopatric, and can simply accumulate different alleles that turn out to be incompatible with each other. When such populations meet again, they may exchange genes across a narrow hybrid zone; the rate of gene flow depends on the mean fitness of the hybrid population. Divergence in sympatry has been more controversial: multiple incompatibilities must be coupled together, to give strong isolation between distinct species. This process is distinct from the usual view of reinforcement, because it can involve both pre- and post-zygotic incompatibility. Sympatric speciation is much easier if there is adaptation to two distinct niches, in which case divergence occurs rapidly, despite recombination, when the genetic variance rises above a threshold. However, such divergence is much easier in parapatry than in sympatry, which makes it implausible that strictly sympatric speciation is common.
Scott Edwards (Harvard, USA): Avian genomics
Species trees – the latest twist on Darwin’s Tree of Life
Molecular phylogenetic studies now routinely employ multiple loci, and when variation in the topology of different loci is explored, almost inevitably data sets exhibit gene tree variation from locus to locus. Although such variation can have many sources, one of the most ubiquitous is incomplete lineage sorting, the natural stochasticity of gene trees and gene tree-species tree discordance that arises from genetic drift and the failure of gene lineages to coalesce during short internodes that accompany rapid speciation events. Although such variation can be disconcerting to systematists, in fact it represents a potent source of phylogenetic information, particularly when the focus is on the species tree, the overarching tree of populations, lineages and species that contains the gene trees that have traditionally been the focus of systematics. Here I review basic concepts of gene tree variation and species tree reconstruction, emphasizing that gene trees and species trees are different statistical entities that require different types of molecular sampling to maximize resolution. I review new Bayesian and maximum likelihood methods for estimating species trees from multilocus molecular data and present recent studies from our lab employing the species tree approach, particularly for birds. Despite the fact that a ‘gene centric’ approach to phylogenetics has dominated for several decades, embracing species trees as the focus of systematics is appropriate for the field. In addition to focusing on species rather than genes as the phylogenetic unit, species trees provide a natural bridge between phylogeography and phylogenetics as well as a much better statistical description of DNA sequence variation than does the supermatrix or concatenation approaches.
Laurent Keller (Lausanne, Switzerland): Social evolution
Ant behavior is modulated by complex interactions between genes and social environment
In this talk I will discuss how interactions between genes and social environment influence behavior and social organization. In particular, I will show that, in ants, worker behavior and gene expression profiles are more strongly influenced by indirect effects associated with the genotypic composition of workers within their colony than by the direct effect of their own genotype. This constitutes an unusual example of an “extended phenotype,” and suggests a complex genetic architecture directly and indirectly influencing the individual behaviors that, in aggregate, produce an emergent colony-level phenotype. I will finally discuss of these gene by environment interactions underlie the presence of two distinct modes of social organization.
Allen Orr (Rochester, USA): Genetics of speciation and adaptation
Speciation in Drosophila: the Role of Natural Selection
Genetic studies of speciation have focused on the evolution of hybrid sterility and inviability. In the last decade, several laboratories, including mine, have attempted to connect speciation with the study of molecular evolution, an effort that obviously requires identifying speciation genes at the DNA sequence level. I briefly review these efforts from my own laboratory, describing several recently characterized genes that cause postzygotic reproductive isolation in Drosophila. This work points to an important role for natural selection— perhaps involving genetic conflict— in speciation.
Marcy Uyenoyama (Duke, USA): Mechanisms of evolutionary change at the molecular and population levels
Conflict under absolute linkage: Self-incompatibility in flowering plants
Sexual antagonism reflects conflict between the reproductive strategies of mating individuals. Extensively studied in organisms with separate sexes, sexual antagonism shapes mating systems in hermaphroditic organisms as well. I will use homomorphic self-incompatibility (SI) systems in flowering plants to illustrate the principles of sexual antagonism and their implications for the genomic region surrounding SI factors. In the best-known systems of homomorphic SI systems, the transcription units that control the expression of the male and female components show virtually complete genetic linkage to each other. In spite of their conjoined evolutionary fates, such factors are subject to distinct and sometimes conflicting arrays of selective pressures. Competition among pollen for compatible styles generates intense selection pressures that affect the maintenance, turnover, and generation of new SI specificities. The pattern of genetic variation in genomic regions flanking SI factors can provide a basis for the reconstruction of the history of this form of selection in natural populations.
Frauenchiemsee (also called the "Fraueninsel") is a small, picturesque island in Lake Chiemsee, located between Munich and Salzburg. We will be holding the symposium at a beautiful Benedictine abbey founded in 782. To read more about the abbey, Abtei Frauenwörth, please see their website. This is an ideal venue for such a meeting, since it will promote an informal, collaborative atmosphere. The 300 permanent residents are extremely proud of their gardens, and in May the car-free island will be full of carefully-tended spring flowers. The island is easily reached by train and boat (see below for train connections from Munich or Salzburg Airports).
Lake Chiemsee, is one of the biggest natural lakes in Bavaria, with a surface area of 79.9 square kilometers, at the foot of the German Alps. Three islands are found in this lake: "Frauenisel", "Herreninsel" and "Kautinsel". The largest of the islands is the "Herreninsel" (Gentlemen island), which is a natural reserve of the Bavarian state for bird and bats. Also on this island is one of the palaces of the last Bavarian king, Ludwig II: Herrenchiemsee Schloß. This palace was built as a replica of Versailles, France.
EES Master's and PhD students and VW-funded PhD students and postdocs will give talks and present posters about their research, and many professors that are involved with the Volkswagen Foundation and several members of the VW staff will also be attending.
The invitations have already been sent out, and approximately 100 people will be attending. If you are on this list, please remember to send the following information to Dr. Elena Berg (berg"at"biologie.uni-muenchen.de) no later than Monday, March 8:
1. Your full name as you would like it to appear on your name badge
2. Your institutional affiliation (also on name badge)
3. Your scientific field of research (e.g. host-parasite interactions, behavioral ecology of birds, evolutionary genomics, etc!)
4. Your study system
5. Dietary preferences (omnivore or vegetarian)
6. Specific roommate preferences, if any (we will try to accommodate these requests, but no guarantees!)
7. If you WILL NOT be arriving by the 17:00 ferry on the 9th and/or departing after breakfast on the 12th, please let us know (and send details as soon as possible).
In addition, all of the PhD students, Master's students, and postdocs should prepare either a talk or a poster for the symposium. The space for talks is very limited, so most of you will end up giving posters. For talks, we will give priority to the VW-sponsored PhDs and postdocs who have not given talks at previous VW symposia. For all of you, please also send by March 8:
8. Title of your presentation
9. Abstract (no more than 250 words)
10. Preference for Poster or Talk
At the meeting, we will also organize special discussion sessions on topics of your choice. We asked you for suggestions and sent out a poll, and here were your top three choices:
- Applied aspects of evolutionary biology: Darwinian medicine, conservation biology, evolutionary ethics, etc. (20 votes)
- Empirical observations vs. theoretical models in evolutionary biology (13 votes)
- Hirsch and impact factors, university rankings and other summary statistics: how is / are evolutionary science(tists) evaluated? (13 votes)
On the final full day of the conference (Tuesday, May 11), we will also be holding a symposium-wide discussion session entitled "New Developments and Funding Directions in Evolutionary Biology across Germany and Europe."
If you are interested in helping to lead/moderate any of these sessions, please contact us!
Talks & Posters
With the exception of the five keynote talks (45 minutes), all talks should be 10-11 minutes long, with 4-5 minutes for questions. We will ask all of you to save your talk as a PDF document. This means that no animation will be possible, but it ensures that all of your talks will look great no matter what computer we use!
If you are giving a talk, please send the PDF to us no later than Monday, May 3.
Posters should be no larger than A0 and should be designed in "portrait" format (Hochformat).
You can download a PDF of the talk and poster abstracts.
Getting There & Away
You are responsible for booking all of your travel to and from the island. The VolkswagenStiftung has generously agreed to cover the travel costs for the symposium participants, but please make an effort to find the cheapest flights and train tickets, etc.! We cannot reimburse first class travel. Thank you.
The two airports closest to the Fraueninsel are: Munich international Airport and Salzburg Airport. Arrival to Fraueninsel is possible from either of these initial points. The last location before taking a boat to the island is the town of Prien am Chiemsee. This is the information to reach this point form either airport:
From Munich to Prien (am Chiemsee):
If you are flying into Munich international airport (F.J. Strauss) and plan to use public transportation to reach the Fraueninsel, you will probably need to go to Munich's Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station) first. Two suburban train lines, S8 and S1, connect the airport regularly with the Hauptbahnhof. The S-Bahn trains are a short walk from the airport terminals - just follow the signs. You will need to buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines before you board - a single ticket costs 9.60€ and a group ticket (called a Partner Ticket, up to 5 people!) costs 18.80€. Detailed information on connections and fares, etc., can be found here: Munich suburban trains: Airport - Main Station.
Upon arrival at the Hauptbahnhof, take the Regional train (Regional Bahn) towards Salzburg. Check time tables with this link to the German Railways, Deutsche Bahn. You will need to purchase a ticket first. If you are traveling alone, it might be cheapest to go to one of the DB counters and buy a one-way ticket. However, if you are traveling with others, it's almost always cheapest to buy a "Bayern Ticket" - just 28€ for up to 5 people! You can buy this ticket at a counter or from one of the machines.
Once you are on the right train, your stop is Prien (am Chiemsee), a town located right next to Lake Chiemsee. The travel time from Munich to Prien is about one hour and ten minutes.
From Salzburg to Prien (am Chiemsee):
Starting from Salzburg Airport (W.A. Mozart), the easiest way to reach the Salzburg main station is to take the Bus line No. 2. These buses leave the Airport every 10 minutes, reaching the main station in 20 minutes. The price of a single ticket is 2.0€. For further information click here: Salzburg Airport - Salzburg Main Station.
To get from Salzburg main station to Prien (am Chiemsee, take a Deutsche Bahn train. You can buy your ticket at the station. For Regional (RE) trains the fare is 11.50€. Trains leave every hour and take 55 minutes to reach Prien.
Once you are in Prien
From the Prien train station, you have two options to reach the lake and the ferry to the Fraueninsel. You can either take the little tourist train to the dock (10 minutes) or you can walk straight to the dock (20 minutes). If you have a lot of luggage, we suggest that you take the little green train.
The ferry to the island leaves approximately every 30 minutes. Here is a PDF of the most recent ferry schedule. The relevant section is in red and is titled "Prien/Stock" - we would like all of you to arrive in plenty of time for the 17:00 ferry. This will give everyone time to check in and join the other symposium participants for our introductory dinner.
Arriving by car
If you prefer to drive down to Prien/Stock, you may be interested in leaving your car safely parked before taking the boat to the final destination. Chiemsee Schifffahrt in Prien offers a car park with gate. They charge a fee of 11 Euros for four days.
Important update about the ferry!
You do NOT need to buy the round-trip ferry tickets to the Fraueninsel yourselves! We have made arrangements with the ferry company to bill us later for the total number of tickets that are handed out to VW Symposium participants. Please print out THIS FORM and bring it with you.
On Sunday afternoon, the ferry leaves every half hour (on the hour and half hour). As you know, I'd like everyone to make sure they arrive in plenty of time for the 17:00 ferry, but you are welcome to arrive as early as the 14:00 ferry. I will station someone at the ferry terminal from the 14:00 ferry until the 17:00 ferry. Look for someone with a sign saying "VW Symposium" - that person will hand you a ticket, which will also serve as your return ticket on Wednesday. So make sure you hold onto it.
Also, I will station a welcoming party at the Prien train station from 15:00 to 16:30 - again, look for some friendly students holding up a sign saying "VW Status Symposium." They will be able to direct you to the ferry. You can either walk from the station to the ferry (approx 20-25 min), or there is an 8 minute train that takes you directly to the ferry terminal. Unfortunately that little train only runs once per hour (at 10 past the hour), so you may need to walk. If you really cannot walk for some reason, then several of you can share a taxi to the terminal.
To walk, just follow the main road and the signs. Here is a link to google maps.
If you arrive after 16:30, you will have to find your own way to the ferry terminal. We will leave the leftover tickets at the ticket counter, and you will need to print out and show the "Teilnahmebestaetigung" form in order to get your ticket. I recommend that everyone bring this form with them, no matter what ferry you plan to take! We've had many conversations with the ferry people, and hopefully everything will run smoothly, but if you arrive at a different time (e.g. later Sunday or Monday) and the ticket person doesn't understand the situation, you may have to buy your own ticket (it will cost about 7.80 - children are free) and we will reimburse you later!
Once you arrive on the island, walk straight up the path from the ferry dock, past the restaurant on your left, and turn left into the gates of the Abtei Frauenwörth on your left. The abbey takes up one-third of the island, so you can't miss it.
After you have completed your travel, we will be able to reimburse you for your transportation costs. To reimburse you, we will need:
1. Your original receipts (not copies).
2. If you used an EC or credit card, we will need a bank statement (Kontoauszug) listing the amounts that were deducted from your bank account.
3. Your bank information and home address.
4. A completed copy of the reimbursement form, for download here as Word document or PDF.
Please submit all travel reimbursement claims to our office by Friday, June 11.
Symposium Organizing Committee
For questions regarding the event and suggestions to improve this site, please contact:
Tel: +49 89 2180 74 208
Department Biologie II, Room B02.007
University of Munich (LMU)
Großhaderner Str. 2
D-82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany