Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)

Genomics of rapid Evolution in Novel Environments (GrENE-net)


Niek Scheepens, François Vasseur, Moises Exposito-Alonso


Since February 2017

In a nutshell

GrENE-netGenomics of rapid Evolution in Novel Environments – is a coordinated distributed global evolution experiment with the plant model species Arabidopsis thaliana. We invite researchers to join us and perform a replicate experiment at their home institution. Participants will receive seed mixtures of c. 200 natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana which they will sow into small replicated plots. Every year, participants will sample plant material used for genome sequencing which allows to track changes in the abundances of alleles and accessions. Coupled with weather and soil data, we aim to unravel the process of adaptation to these important environmental variables.

Project description

Last century’s breakthrough in evolutionary theory amounted to the focus on genetics as the basis of evolution and the redefinition of evolution in terms of allele frequency changes, influenced by neutral as well as selective forces. Nowadays, well within the genomic era, our challenge is to experimentally demonstrate and extend this knwoledge by monitoring changes in allele frequencies in evolution experiments over multiple generations and selective environments in nature. Moreover, there is now plenty of evidence that evolution can be a rapid process. Investigating how rapid evolutionary processes unfold in nature is of utmost relevance to predict adaptation to rapid climate change.

With this aim, we are setting up a coordinated distributed experiment in which populations of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana consisting of c. 200 sequenced ecotypes will be sown into replicated plots in different sites around the globe. By incorporating many sites with a broad range of environmental conditions, from southern Spain to Scandinavia and from England to Israel, and by tracing the ecotype composition over multiple years by means of sequencing, we aim to gain insight into the roles of environmental variables in shaping temporal dynamics and spatial variation of population genomics.

We will apply pool-sequencing of plants throughout their reproductive stage to identify successful ecotypes, their phenological timing, and their genomic makeup. As predicted by local adaptation theory, we expect that success under certain temperature, moisture and soil composition will be related to the environment of origin and phenotypic characteristics of each ecotype. However, in contrast with other common garden experiments, we will directly measure the dynamics of natural selection and adaptation to each of the environments where the experiment is taking place. Our selection experiment will thus increase understanding of how the environment, plant phenotypes and their genetic makeup are linked together and of the evolutionary dynamics leading to population adaptation.

A simple protocol will allow any interested researcher to participate in this collaborative effort. Please visit our project website.


There are no publications from this project yet.