RSB Director's Seminar: Models and truth in phylogenomics

How do you estimate a good phylogeny? Phylogenetic trees form the backbone of much of our understanding of evolution, so it's important we try to get them right. Many of us had hoped that the recent deluge of sequence data would help to resolve most of the difficult branches in the tree of life, but this has rarely been the case. Debates rage on, often fueled by the observation that small changes in models or data can lead to dramatically different conclusions. In this talk, I'll introduce a number of attempts we've made to improve phylogenetic inference, as well as our plans for the future.

I grew up in England. My BSc and honors were in Ecology, my MSc was in Artificial Intelligence, and my PhD (at the University of Sussex in the UK) was in developmental biology. After a short postdoc attempting and failing to edit shrimp genomes at University College London, I switched gears to focus on my growing interest in molecular evolution and phylogenetics. In 2008 I moved the ANU as a postdoc, where I remained for 6 years. I then took up a permanent position as a Senior Lecturer in Genomics at Macquarie University in Sydney, and moved back to the ANU at the first opportunity in 2016. I now focus on a range of topics including molecular evolution, somatic mutation, phylogentics, comparative methods, and bioinformatics.