The Provost Lecture Series 15


Tuesday, July 16, 2024 - 15:00 to 17:00


Sydney Brenner Lecture Theater B250


Date: July 16, 2024

Speaker: Professor Evan Economo, Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit

Title: Biodiversity in the era of big data: treasure maps, trap-jaws, and the Metaverse

Chair: Professor Nic Shannon, Theory of Quantum Matter Unit


The diversity of life on this planet is still poorly documented and understood, even as it is under serious threat. Nonetheless, emerging technologies are providing new opportunities to unveil biodiversity and track how it is changing in the Anthropocene.  In this talk, I overview several lines of research in our lab to develop big data approaches to biodiversity science, focusing on.  First, I discuss a project to resolve a species-level map of life for ants, and how this has illuminated both global patterns of diversification and important regions for conservation. Second, we need to monitor changes to populations and communities under anthropogenic stressors. I present work using community-collaborative observation networks to monitor ecological dynamics and track the spread of introduced species. Third, organisms are more than points on a map, and 3D X-ray tomography can capture big data to investigate organismal form and function across the tree of life.  As an example, I present work on the spectacular diversification of ant mandibles, including the repeated evolution of specialized ultrafast weapons. Finally, I offer some perspectives for how big data and immersive media technologies can change how we interact with biodiversity in the lab, at home, and in the field.  These research lines grew along with—and benefited from—the interdisciplinary environment at OIST.


Venue: Sydney Brenner Lecture Theater B250


15:00- 16:00: Introduction, Lecture and Q&A

16:00-16:30: Teatime*

*This time, we’ll join the OIST Teatime at Yun Taku Restaurant



The Provost Lecture Series will provide an opportunity to celebrate milestones in the careers of OIST faculty members. It will recognize newly promoted professors and those who have received prestigious awards. It will highlight faculty achievements and create a space for retiring professors to talk about their research accomplishments and lessons learned over the course of their career. It is a way to celebrate OIST faculty, introduce them to the broader OIST community, acknowledge their research successes, share about their teaching and mentorship of students, and honor their service to the university.


Contact: Office of the Provost Email:

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