A Workshop: An Exploration of the Challenges to Assemble the Tree of Life

September 15th, 2000 - February 28th, 2003 | PROJECT

Phylogenetic groupings of organisms are the basis for predictive classifications and biological information systems. Organizing biological knowledge and their parallel hierarchies according to phylogenetic relationships has become increasingly important for many segments of science and society (i.e., genetic databases such as GenBank). Yet, our understanding of the tree of life is still very incomplete at all taxonomic levels because phylogenetic hypotheses are typically characterized by inadequate taxon samples, and the data themselves are often variable across the included taxa with respect to kind, quantity, and quality. In addition, methods of analysis vary in their appropriateness and applicability, thus making comparison of phylogenetic trees difficult. These impediments need to be addressed if we are to have a tree of life for the major groups of organisms within a reasonable time frame. Equally important will be to ensure that phylogenetic knowledge is accessible and useful to researchers, institutions, and the government agencies who need it. This proposal seeks to bring together approximately 25-30 leading systematic biologists and nonsystematists interested in phylogenetic research and informatics (phyloinformatics). The workshop will attempt to identify the research needed to assemble the tree of life and make that information available to the global user community within a reasonable time frame. The workshop will formulate recommendations designed to promote institutional changes within the systematic research community to accelerate phylogenetic understanding, identify research efforts that will result in large-scale increases in phylogenetically informative data and improve data analysis, and specify research, technological advances, and infrastructural needs to store, retrieve, and manipulate large amounts of phylogenetic information and make it widely available.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History: Tree of Life Visitor Study

Team Members

Joel Cracraft, Principal Investigator, American Museum Natural History
Michael Donoghue, Co-Principal Investigator, Yale University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Phylogenetic Systematics
Award Number: 0089975
Funding Amount: 39096


Audience: Scientists
Discipline: Life science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops