Friday 18th July
The second day’s focus was on diversity, a cross-cutting theme where the centre is developing a fundamental underlying theory and which has application right across UK research council remits as well as in practice and policy. Diversity is the extent of variation in and between populations. It is found throughout biological systems and encompasses variation from the scale of the molecule to the rainforest. For example:
- Species diversity influences the health and sustainability of ecosystems;
- Genetic diversity is important for the health and productivity of crops and livestock;
- Immune diversity is key to host protection from diverse and evolving pathogens;
- Pathogen diversity informs vaccine and drug development;
- Diversity in antimicrobial resistance is a serious clinical and drug development problem.
Its influence and therefore assessment is critical to the life sciences, and the assessment of biodiversity loss and of the impact of human activity, environment, and climate change on diversity has global policy implications. This day brought together researchers from mathematics and across the life sciences to discuss the connections between its analysis and assessment across these fields. It formed part of an ongoing series of meetings on diversity organised by the centre, which included a 5-week BBSRC and Spanish Government funded research programme on the Mathematics of Biodiversity in 2012.
Keynote speakers from the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Edinburgh, the Natural History Museum, the Pirbright Institute, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology talked on the theory of diversity analysis, and of its application in fields from biodiversity to immunogenetics and anti-microbial resistance.
- Louise Matthews, BAHCM, UoG - Introduction to interdisciplinarity in diversity.
- Anne Magurran, St Andrews – Biological diversity in a changing world.
- Christina Cobbold, Maths & Stats, UoG – A general framework for measuring diversity. Christina and Tom Leinster have written an paper on the same subject, published in Ecology.
- Neil Brummitt, NHM – Patterns of plant diversity and threats to its survival.
- Jill Thompson, CEH – Biodiversity and ecosystem processes in tropical forest.
- Richard Reeve, BAHCM, UoG – Analysing spatial and temporal variability in diversity. The arXiv also contains a paper on this topic.
- Thorsten Stefan, BAHCM, UoG – Explaining and characterising MHC diversity.
- John Hammond, Pirbright – The unusual diversity of cattle natural killer cell receptors.
- Louise Matthews, BAHCM, UoG – Using diversity to capture the spread and persistence of AMR.
- Tom Leinster, Edinburgh – The place of diversity in pure mathematics. For interested mathematicians, there is an excellent blog post on this talk written by Tom at the n-Category Café.
- Richard Reeve & Louise Matthews, BAHCM, UoG - Final words.
The original timetable is available here.
R package for measuring diversity
We discussed the availability of an R package which provides many of the diversity measures discussed during the more mathematical talks, called entropart.