Prof. Keith A. Crandall, PhD
Director, Computational Biology Institute. The George Washington University, USA
Keynote Speech Title: Computational Approaches to Biodiversity Informatics.
Abstract: Phylogenetic techniques are used in natural history studies to develop classification schemes for organismal diversity, diversification rates, population dynamics, and inform conservation. These same informatics tools can also be effectively applied to the study of infectious disease to diagnose causal agents of disease, identify drug resistant variants in the genome, track population dynamics through space and time, and establish transmission patterns and timing. Here I discuss the utility of phylogenetics to both traditional biodiversity studies as well as to the study of infectious disease. I demonstrate some of the utility of using computational and statistical approaches for estimating phylogenies, including our new OpenTree (opentreeoflife.org) software to assemble the entire Tree of Life. Using a resulting ‘synthesis’ tree from the freshwater crayfish, I test hypotheses of diversification across different ecological settings. I also demonstrate bioinformatic tools for pathogen diagnosis (in particular our PathoScope software) as an example of translational research impacting personal medical outcomes. I demonstrate our approach with a variety of applications in human health and agricultural settings. In particular, we show the utility of our methods to identify pathogens, characterize microbial diversity, and test hypotheses associated with functional diversity of both host and pathogen.