Evolutionary biologist David Hillis to speak on genomic sequencing of “Tree of Life”

Free public event, College of Science Discover Science Lecture, Nov. 15

Pictured here is an artistic representation of the Hillis Plot, a visual representation of the evolutionary relationships connecting various life forms on Earth.


11/2/2018 | By: Staff Report  |

David Hillis, evolutionary biologist, professor and developer of the Hillis Plot, will present his lecture,  “Applications of the Tree of Life” on Nov. 15 at the University of Nevada, Reno. His talk is free and open to the public as a part of the Discover Science Lecture Series.

In his lecture, Hillis will discuss the many new applications of phylogenetic information (data relating to the evolutionary development of a species) such as the use of detailed genomic information to solve murder investigations, in the development of vaccines, for study of disease outbreaks, and for building new automated identification technology that was once only imagined in science fiction stories.

Darwin's view of a connected Tree of Life captured the imagination of mid-19th Century biologists,” Hillis said. “Now, in the 21st Century, sequencing of genomes is finally allowing biologists to reconstruct and explore the Tree of Life in detail. The resulting information is being used throughout biology to compare and understand biological problems and processes.”

Hillis' primary interests are in biodiversity, molecular evolution, and the phylogeny of life. The Hillis Plot, developed by Hillis, Derrick Zwick and Robin Gutell at the University of Texas, Austin, is a visual representation of the evolutionary relationships connecting various life forms on Earth. This inspiring evolutionary tree was formed from an analysis of small subunit rRNA sequences sampled from about 3,000 species from throughout the Tree of Life. The visual has been used in many museum displays and other educational exhibits.

Hillis has published over 200 scholarly articles and four books, which have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, Korean and Japanese. He is a MacArthur Fellow, and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

He currently is the Alfred Roark Centennial Professor of Natural Sciences, and serves as the Director of the Biodiversity Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He also owns and operates the Double Helix Ranch, where he breeds and studies the evolution and genetics of Texas Longhorns.

About the Discover Science Lecture Series
The lecture is part of the Discover Science Lecture Series put on by the University's College of Science. The series, now in its eighth season, brings top scientists from around the United States to the University to share their knowledge with the community.

Past speakers in the series include astrophysicists Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson; Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic; and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Discover Science Lectures are always free to the public. They are held at the Redfield Auditorium in the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center on the University's Reno campus at 7 p.m.

Free parking for the event is available in the lot south of the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center on the southeast corner of Evans Avenue and Record Street. For more information, call the College of Science at 775-784-4591 or visit the Discover Science Lecture Series website.

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