Today we have a special show. In our first video production, we’re coming to you from the UC Davis Genome Center where we’re joined by evolutionary biologist, Dr. Jonathan Esien. Jonathan and his lab here are becoming better known since the release of a paper in February which suggested evidence of a fourth domain to the basic tree of life. What do we mean by 4th domain? We’ll be asking Jonathan that soon. He is this year’s recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award, and we’re pleased he had us to his lab.
Jonathan Eisen is an evolutionary biologist, currently working at University of California, Davis and is the academic editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Biology.
On this episode, Jonathan talks about "evolvability," the probability that organisms can invent new functions. To do this, he has been using genome data in conjunction with experimental information to try and understand the mechanisms by which new functions have originated.
Another area of interest for Eisen is the "built environment." We live and work in buildings or structures which are non-natural environments, new to microbes. These "new" environments represent a controlled system in which to study the rules by which microbial communities form.
Jonathan is interested in these environments as basic science vehicle and he shares the importance of studying the built environment for science and human health.
Finally Jonathan explains his interest in "open science," the ways in which science is shared. At it's core, Eisen wants to leverage cheaper technologies to accelerate the progress of science in a positive way.
This episode was recorded at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia on February 18, 2012.