Biological evolution viewed from myriad angles
The core of ISEM research is hinged on the ‘Evolution’ concept, underpinned by our awareness of the temporal dynamics in our perception of living organisms. Our research is geared towards charting the history of species, populations and communities through palaeontology, archaeology, paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions, phylogeny, population genetics, and studies on diversification patterns. We also strive to gain insight into biological evolution mechanisms, such as adaptation (and maladaptation), speciation, sustainable interactions, reproductive systems and the spatiotemporal dynamics of communities and ecosystems. This research concerns all types of organisms (animals, plants and microorganisms), time scales (from the Palaeozoic to present day), organizational levels (from molecules to communities) and terrestrial/aquatic and natural/anthropogenic environments from the Poles to the Equator.
An array of complementary approaches
Research at ISEM is based primarily on the observation, description and characterization of past and present biodiversity, through extensive fieldwork, locally, regionally and worldwide. These surveys and long-term monitoring studies enhance the collections (fossils, pollen, charcoal, seeds, tissues, molecules), databases (morphological and behavioural traits, DNA sequences) and genetic resources that constitute the wellspring of our research unit. Our research also involves laboratory experiments (molecular biology, cytogenomics, histology, trait measurement and analysis, etc.) to study relevant phenotypes (growth, fertility, development, behaviour, virulence, resistance, etc.) and their genetic and environmental links (hybridization, quantitative genetics, acclimatization, high throughput genotyping), as well as experimental evolution projects. Finally, major modelling, biostatistics and bioinformatics developments in fields as varied as evolutionary genomics, ecosystem dynamics, geometric morphometry and evolutionary ecology are undertaken to interpret and synthesize these data and results.
Fundamental to applied research
An extensive history of fundamental research is the cornerstone of our activity at ISEM, yet our work is also focused on current tangible societal issues. Our research nurtures the biomedical sector through the exploration of evolutionary medicine concepts, the study of cancers as evolving biological entities, and the biodiversity-health relationship, particularly in tropical environments. We are developing new animal health-friendly approaches in aquaculture breeding conditions in an intensification and emerging disease setting. Our research on the impact of past climatic and anthropogenic disturbances (global warming, forest fires, domestication) enables us to assess expected biosphere responses to environmental changes under way. Finally, our invasion biology and plant and animal conservation biology research places us in a whistleblower position with an intermediary role regarding the biodiversity crisis.
ERC H2020 project
Jonathan Romiguier (PI), Evolutionary genomics of royalty in Messor hybridogenetic ants (ROYALMESS), 2021-2026
Alison Duncan (PI), Competition and facilitation between parasites as drivers of virulence evolution (EVOLVIR), 2021-2025
Laurent Bremond (co-I), Degraded stable states in tropical forests (DESSFOR), 2021-2024