GeoPhyloBuilder: Linking Phylogenies and Earth History


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View a of GeoPhyloBuilder output.

Evolution is a spatiotemporal process that is structured by the geographical history of Planet Earth. Geographical information systems (GIS) are software that supports the storage, retrieval, mapping, and analysis of geographic data. Within evolutionary science GIS can be used to explicitly integrate population genetic and phylogenetic models of multiple taxa with data describing present and past environments and climate. A wide variety of questions can be addressed, for example David Kidd (NESCent) and Constantino Marc­as-Garcia (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) are collating reconstructions of the drainage history of Mesoamerica from the Miocene (15 MYA) to present that will be compared to patterns of freshwater organism biodiversity. A recent editorial in the Journal of Biogeography by Kidd and Ritchie (2006) outlined a manifesto for GIS application in evolutionary science.

During the first year of his post-doc fellowship David Kidd and resident developer Xianhua Liu have designed and implemented the "GeoPhyloBuilder" extension for ArcGIS ( Software quality and efficiency has been greatly enhanced through the use of a professional programmer. GeoPhyloBuilder creates a spatiotemporal GIS network model from a tree file and associated data describing the geographical location of tip entities. 3D visualizations can be easily created using the ArcSCENE viewer. The software is applicable to any discipline that uses tree models to classify spatial entities. GeoPhyloBuilder v1.0 will be released in January 2007 at the 3rd Biennial Conference of the International Biogeography Society, Tenerife where a short animated film "GeoPhyloBuilder: the Movie" will be shown.

Journals have expressed interest in using the system to store submitted spatial phylogenetic models. Interest has also been expressed by some collaborative phylogeography groups, e.g. the NESCent Patterns of Biodiversity in Madagascar catalysis meeting. Future development will include support for phylogenetic networks, pairwise-distance matrices, import and export from Google Earth and the spatial querying of multiple networks. Papers describing the data model and advertising the software will be published in evolution and GIS journals and the GIS trade press.

Reference: Kidd, D. M. and M. G. Ritchie (2006). "Phylogeographic information systems; Putting the geography into phylogeography." Journal of Biogeography 33: 1851-1865.

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