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Skill Pill+: Evolutionary Genomics

Skill Pill+: Evolutionary Genomics will introduce concepts related to DNA analysis of termite gut microbiome, directly taught by researchers of the Evolutionary Genomics Unit led by Tom Bourguignon.

The Evolutionary Genomics Unit is a multinational team investigating some of the factors that helped insects to conquer the world using advanced techniques of molecular biology and next generation sequencing methods. They use use termites and cockroaches as models, and particularly focus our research on three factors that contributed to the success of termites and cockroaches: (1) the evolution of symbiotic association with microorganisms, helping insects to thrive on new food sources; (2) the historical biogeography of insects, and the factors at the origin of their cosmopolitan distribution; (3) the molecular mechanisms used by termites to synthesize their defensive compounds.

Program プログラム

You might know termites as pest insects living somewhere inside wood, or worse, inside our wooden buildings, and slowly eating it from inside. However, termites are much more than this. Termites are important recyclers of dead organic material who can decompose and eat not only wood, but also leaf litter, soil organic material, grass, fungi, and lichens. In particular, without the recycling services of termites, tropical ecosystems would accumulate dead organic material and would not be nearly as species-rich as they are. 

However, termites cannot digest this difficult diet by themselves. They rely on an army of microscopic helpers inside their gut, microorganisms such as bacteria and protists. In this area, there is still a lot to discover because a majority of termites species used to be neglected by researchers and only a few pest species were studied in detail. Also, the majority of the termite gut microorganisms are, so far, impossible to cultivate and study in laboratory conditions. Only recently, with the development of new methods for DNA sequencing, we have started to sequence the DNA of termite gut microbes in large scale and we are slowly uncovering how complex and unique these microbial communities are. Join us in our research!

The program will take place over two days. On Saturday morning, we will first collect termites from wood and take a look at their gut inhabitants with microscopes.

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, we will use a range of cool computer tools and programs to analyze the DNA isolated from the termite gut microbes to understand a bit more those guys that are helping termites to digest the wood. As a part of the course, you will also get a short introduction on how to use a Unix terminal, which is a very powerful tool for analysis of any kind of data.

Target audience 参加対象者

This Skill Pills+ is suitable people with a background in biology and some experience with biological sequences, either undergraduate or master students.

Teachers 講師陣

The teachers will be the members of the  Evolutionary Genomics Unit. Pr. Thomas Bourguignon, Ales Bucek, Lucia Zifcakova (postdocs), Crystal Clitheroe (technician), Jigyasa Arora and Menglin Wang (PhD students).


More information その他

  • Dates: Arrival date: December 14 (Friday). Activity date: December 15 (Saturday) and 16 (Sunday), 2018
  • Application deadline: November 25, 11:59PM
  • Location: OIST campus, B506 (Lab1) and B701 (Lab3).
  • What to bring: note-taking material.
  • 開催地:OISTメインキャンパス(沖縄県国頭郡恩納村)、第3研究棟(Level C、C700)
  • 持ち物:決定次第参加者にお知らせします。

Workshop Information can be found here


Thank you very much for your interest.

Participants and Organizers Introduction


Material of the Skill Pill+

All the material used during this Skill Pill+ (slides, data, scripts...) can be found here.