Ecology and evolution are essential scientific fields in our understanding of life and biodiversity on Earth, and are of growing societal relevance. The doctoral program in Ecology & Evolution brings together World Class research groups in an active and innovative academic community. The collaborative participation of various University departments, the Botanical Garden and the Museum of Natural History of Geneva reflects this interdisciplinary and vibrant academic environment. The scientific excellence of our internationally top ranked University is translated into a variety of high quality courses and activities. Moreover, participating students are eligible to the activities organized by the University Conference of Occidental Switzerland (CUSO), enlarging their networking opportunities.
Our main scientific interest is to understand how human genetic diversity has been shaped during evolution. We focus more particularly on HLA genes, which are the most polymorphic of our genome. As these genes are involved in the immune response, their patterns of molecular variation are informative to reconstruct both the demographic history and migrations of human populations across the world and their interactions to their environments in terms of resistance or susceptibility to diseases (e.g. malaria). We are also interested in other related topics in anthropology, such as the co-evolution of genetic and cultural (e.g. languages) traits.
We are interested in understanding how the biodiversity that surrounds us has originated and is maintained. We approach this wide subject by conducting several well-defined research lines that examine the role played by extrinsic factors such as allopatric divergence, past climatic or environmental changes or the introduction of invasive species. We also analyze how intrinsic factors may drive new diversity like adaptation to new environments, the emergence of selectively advantageous traits, or the ability to have an accelerated substitution rate. In parallel, we develop new bioinformatics and laboratory methods to facilitate our investigations. We use a wide panel of techniques, approaches and methods that range from field experiments to genome sequencing, assembly and annotation.
My main research fields are i) Systematics, evolution and biogeography of the tropical tree plant family Sapotaceae ii) Vegetation study and dynamics, especially in Africa and Madagascar iii) Floristics of Africa and Madagascar. I am also head curator of the flowering plants section of one of the most important herbariums worldwide, and lecturer for Tropical Botany at the University of Geneva.
Our main research themes deal with the evolution of genetic diversity in populations, with a specific focus on humans. Our interests cover population genomics, ecology and evolution in general and more specifically the genetic consequences of past population dynamics, migration and admixture, combined to the effects of natural selection. We specialize in the development of computational simulation methods applied to ancient DNA to study the combined effects of various evolutionary forces on molecular diversity.
We are interested in better defining the role played by aquatic autotrophic microorganisms, bacteria and viruses on the global biogeochemical cycles of carbon, but also on essential elements to sustain life. This in turn will provide information about their role in shaping biogeochemical cycling of these elements, ecosystem functioning, as well as their role in the regulation of our climate. Finally, we also assess their sensitivity to climate change scenarios in order to better predict their future role in the ocean. A significant part of our research is conducted in the Southern Ocean, a hotspot for our climate regulation yet highly sensitive to climate change and mostly undescribed.
We apply methods of population genetics and genomics to make inferences on the evolution of genes of pharmacogenomic interest in humans and in other primates. Our main research interests focus on the origin and evolution of genetic and genomic diversity in human populations, and its links to the history of migrations and cultural differentiations, such as the adoption of new subsistence strategies, which have probably left imprints in the current human genome. To understand the potential functional role of the genetic diversity observed in humans, we also investigate the variability of these genomic regions in other primates.
Our work is inspired by Hutchinson`s classic 1961 paper on «The paradox of the plankton». What are the mechanisms which control biodiversity of phytoplankton in lakes? We are convinced that in times of rapid environmental change a deep understanding of biodoversity at all levels – (i) its evolutionary origin, (ii) population genetic level, (iii) phytoplankton community level – in particular functional diversity, (iv) lake ecosystem level is indispensable to preserve biodiversity and the vital lake ecoystem services it supports.
I am interested in the population genetics and phylogeography of diverse plant species. In recent years my projects have focused on groups of plants or genera for which species delimitation is an issue, due to hybridization, recent speciation events, and incomplete lineage sorting. To deal with such cases I am using the coalescent theory and various molecular markers (microsatellites, Sanger sequences, SNPs, NGS data) from different genomes (nucleus, chloroplast, mitochondria).
The CJBG offers a unique research environment for scientists and students. Our research aims to document and understand plant and fungal biodiversity, to discover how species are related to each other, how they have evolved, and what evolutionary forces have influenced them over time, as well as which factors contribute to their distributions and overall biodiversity patterns. Linked to the University (Dep. of Botany & Plant Sciences) by the Lab. of Plant Systematics & Biodiversity, our botanists, systematists, morphologists, geneticists and bioinfomaticians undertake a wide range of research activities, from plant or fungal taxonomy and systematics, floristics, or vegetation analysis to phylogenetics, phylobiogeography, population genetics and vegetation mapping, modelling and prediction.
From worms to bats and birds to spiders, we aim at understanding the diversity and evolution of animal life. Using both whole organisms and molecules, the various museum labs try to describe the present (and past !) fauna, to understand its evolution through time and space. Many of our projects make use of our collections which are among the largest European ones.