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UC Intercampus Research Program on Experimental Evolution


UCUIRPEE is in the process of being superseded by NERE, the Network for Experimental Research on Evolution, a University of California Multicampus Research Project.  This UCIRPEE page will remain alive until that web transition has been completed.

University of California
ntercampus Research Program on Experimental Evolution

Welcome to the home page of the recently formed (January 2004) UCIRPEE.

     By "experimental evolution" we mean research in which populations are studied across multiple generations under defined and reproducible conditions, whether in the laboratory or in nature (for two recent short overviews, click here and here). This intentionally general definition subsumes various types of experiments that involve evolutionary (cross-generational, genetically based) changes. At one end of the continuum, the study of evolutionary responses to naturally occurring events (e.g., droughts, fires, invasions, epidemics) may constitute a kind of adventitious experimental evolution, especially if these events occur repeatedly and predictably enough that the study can be replicated, either simultaneously or in subsequent years. Next we have intentional "field introductions," in which a population is placed in a new habitat in the wild, or a population's habitat is altered by adding a predator, a pesticide, a food source, fertilizer, etc. The experimental population is then monitored across generations and compared with an unmanipulated control population.
     "Laboratory natural selection" denotes experiments in which the environment of a laboratory-maintained population is altered (e.g., change of temperature, culture medium, food) as compared with an unaltered control population. "Laboratory culling" involves exposing an experimental population to a stress that is lethal (or sublethal) and then allowing the survivors (or hardiest) to become the parents of the next generation. In all of the foregoing types of experiments, the investigator does not specifically measure and select individuals based on a particular phenotypic trait or combination of traits. Rather, selection is imposed in a general way, and the population has relatively great freedom to respond across multiple levels of biological organization (e.g., via behavior, morphology, physiology). "Multiple solutions" are possible and even probable, depending on the kind of organism and experimental design.
     In classical "artificial selection" or "selective breeding" experiments, individuals within a population are scored for one or more specific traits, then breeders are chosen based on their score (e.g., highest or lowest). Depending on the level of biological organization at which selection is imposed -- and the precision with which the phenotype is defined in practice -- multiple solutions may again be common.
Domestication is an interesting (and ancient) type of experimental evolution that generally involves some amount of intentional selective breeding. In some cases, the process has been replicated enough times that general principles might be discerned (e.g., several species of rodents have been domesticated). Of course, whenever organisms are brought from the wild to the laboratory or agricultural setting some amount of adaptation to the new conditions will occur, and this may be studied. Once domesticated, organisms may be the subject of additional selective breeding programs, with varying degrees of control and replication, leading to multiple breeds or lines.
     More recently, the unintentional effects of various actions by human beings have been studied from the perspective that they constitute selective factors whose consequences may be predictable. Examples include changes in commercial fisheries and in various ungulates that are hunted.
     In any case, to qualify as experimental evolution, we require most if not all of the following fundamental design elements: maintenance of control populations, simultaneous replication, real-time observation over multiple generations, and the prospect of detailed genetic analysis. In short, experimental evolution is evolutionary biology in its most empirical guise.

Notification of Approval by UCOP, from Director Michael R. Rose - Jan. 30, 2004

Approval Letter from UCOP

Approved Proposal

Funded UCOP Development Grant

Member Institutions and Host Units:

    Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
           Francisco J. Ayala   Example Pub. PDF
           Albert F. Bennett   Example Pub. PDF
           Timothy J. Bradley    Example Pub. PDF
           Adriana D. Briscoe
           Robin Bush
           Michael T. Clegg
           Walter M. Fitch
           Steven A. Frank
           Anthony D. Long
           Laurence D. Mueller   Example Pub. PDF
           Michael R. Rose, Director   Pubs. on Experimental Evolution
           Ann K. Sakai
           Arthur E. Weis

Los Angeles
     Life Sciences Core Curriculum
          John P. (Jay) Phelan, Associate Director   Example Pub. PDF

    Department of Biology
          Mark Chappell
          Daphne J. Fairbairn   Example Pub. PDF   Pubs. on Experimental Evolution
          Theodore Garland, Jr., Assoc. Director & Webmaster   Example Pub. PDF   Pubs. on Experimental Evolution   Jan. 2004 SICB Symposium
          Kimberly Hammond
          Cheryl Hayashi
          David Reznick, Associate Director  Example Pub. PDF
          Derek A. Roff   Example Pub. PDF
          Leonard Nunney  Example Pub. PDF
          Marlene Zuk
     Department of Entomology
          Robert F. Luck
          Richard Stouthamer
     Department of Botany & Plant Sciences
          Norman C. Ellstrand

San Diego
    Section of Ecology, Behavior & Evolution
        Ronald Burton
        Lin Chao, Associate Director   Example Pub. PDF
        Hopi Hoekstra   Example Pub. PDF
        John Huelsenbeck
        Terence Hwa
        Russell Lande
        Bernhard . Palsson
        Christopher J. Wills

Santa Barbara
    Department of Ecology, Evolution, & Marine Biology
        John A. Endler   Example Pub. PDF
        Susan Mazer
        Todd Oakley, Associate Director   Example Pub. PDF
        William Rice   Example Pub. PDF
        Robert Warner

Organizational Chart for UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives

Some Experimental Evolution Links

To UCR Biology Home Page

Last Updated 20 September 2006 by Theodore Garland, Jr., Associate Director and Webmaster