Doing research in evolutionary biology is like listening to an endlessly fascinating rendition of just so stories. Just recently I learned about a species of sea anemone that lives symbiotically with hermit crabs in the deep sea. The hermit crab lives in a chitinous ‘shell’ that is exuded by the anomene. The ‘shell’ grows along with the crab, which never has to go find another shell, and the anomene gets a free ride to new food sources. It is learning wondrous little bits of natural history like this that first got me interested in studying evolutionary biology and keep me fascinated to this day.
We are currently in the midst of revolution in biology, catalyzed primarily by genomic methods and increases in computer power. People say that the 20th century belonged to physics (think atomic energy) and the 21st century will belong to biology (think Dolly the sheep, and that wasn’t even in this century yet!). My career as a biological researcher has developed right on the cusp of this century’s genomic revolution, and I am strongly influenced by the rapid advances in sequencing, proteomic, and computational technologies that are driving this revolution. Yet I remain firmly convinced that often the best evolutionary research is based on organismal biology. The genomic revolution is rewriting the rules about what is a ‘model species’. I want the research that I do to push those boundaries and rewrite those rules.