Distinguished Professor, Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Biology, University of Florida
The Great Tree of Life: Biodiversity, Genomes, and Societal Challenges
The Tree of Life has emerged as a grand symbol and organizing principle for biodiversity, deftly weaving scientific and cultural meaning. With 2 million species described, and many millions yet undiscovered, the Tree of Life is immense. Assembling the evolutionary tree for all life was long considered impossible, but the perfect storm of algorithm development, computer power, innovations in DNA sequencing technology, and global teamwork has enabled construction of the first family tree of all living species on Earth. With this framework, the Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence the genome of every species on Earth. The combined power of genomics and the Tree of Life holds promise for addressing societal grand challenges ranging from food security to climate change.
Douglas Soltis is a Distinguished Professor in the Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Biology at the University of Florida. He studies plant evolution using genomic and informatic approaches; interests include genome doubling (polyploidy), genome evolution, building the tree of life, spatial phylogenetics, and angiosperm diversification. Soltis has reconstructed relationships among major lineages of flowering plants. With others, he proposed a major new classification for angiosperms. He is part of a group that built the first-draft tree of life for all 2.3 million named species on Earth. He has over 500 publications, including papers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Science, and Nature and 9 books. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.