The big questions
Applied Research: Integrative Human genomics and physiology
Most of our efforts pertaining to this program involve developing the world's most comprehensive human biology database to provide customers with personalized health and fitness plans. We will evaluate our success in this field by gathering qualitative and quantitative data for each customer monthly, and using that information to measure shifts and changes from our baseline measurements.
Applied Research: Evolution of Agriculture
Climate change, and the destruction to the environment caused by human cultivated lands are a threat to the global food supply. We need crops that are resistant to disease, and deliver good yields, but research on this front has often been limited to genetic interventions on established varieties. ERI scientists are working on alternative solutions involving ancestral strains of livestock, aimed at understanding the complex trade-offs that have been selected for in the past.
Applied Research: Environmental influence on postembryonic development
Attempts to understand development have traditionally focused on the role that genes play in establishing specific bodily characters. When it is acknowledged that environmental factors also play a role in trait determination, this is often done in the context of linear interactions between genotypes and phenotypes that are not always biologically realistic. ERI scientists take the environmental component to development seriously, recognizing that we are not strictly fated by our genes, and instead, attempt to understand how and why the environment shapes development. By focusing on the environment as a crucial director of development, ERI scientists have inverted our normal way of conceiving development, and are working to develop novel methods of controlling phenotypic outcomes to better human health and wellness, and preserve global biodiversity
Science has fundamentally changed in recent years. The approach is often technology driven, meaning that new—and often interesting—tools are applied in order to manipulate developing phenotypes and regulate evolutionary change. This way of doing science stands in stark contrast to a much older approach which focuses on the development and testing of broadly applicable theories that make generalized predictions which apply across both taxa and time. The current approach is piecemeal, and often lacks integration that allows us to take research done on a common lab system such as the mouse, and translate it to humans. What is needed in this context are skilled generalists who can apply their knowledge of multiple systems, extract the essence of specialized studies, and map-out how they relate to recent findings in other fields. ERI scientists are specialists in theory building, and our work on this front has led to integrative advancements in the fields of evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and ecophysiology.