Anatomy ontologies in evolutionary biology and genetics

PI(s): Melissa A Haendel (Oregon Health & Science University (,OR))
Matthew Yoder (North Carolina State Univerisity)
Start Date: 13-Feb-2012
Keywords: database, evolutionary computation, computational modeling, evo-devo, morphology

Evolutionary research has been revolutionized by the explosion of genetic information available, and anatomy ontologies must play a central crucial in relating this knowledge to observable diversity. Anatomy ontologies and vocabularies are widely used to index data and are critical for relating gene expression and phenotype data across taxa. Within a single species, anatomy ontologies provide scaffolding that interconnects many kinds of observations; across species, they provide evolutionary, developmental, and mechanistic insights. In order for anatomy ontologies to successfully serve all of these purposes, they must be constructed consistently so that they can be utilized and understood by both researcher and software alike. This course aims to teach proper ontology design principles and practices such that anatomical interoperability across evolutionarily disparate taxa is achieved. It further seeks to promote community growth and adoption of ontology-based methods and tools. The subsequent benefit is in the form of shared access to the unique data store of each community (e.g. genetic, genomic, developmental, and evolutionary data).

The course is designed for newcomers to ontologies, and students and faculty are both welcome. The course covers a basic introduction to ontology design principles and usage, specific ontology considerations for anatomy, application of anatomy ontologies in the context of evolutionary phenotype comparison, and use of anatomy ontologies for image annotation in different taxa. Hands-on exercises will develop ontology skills and provide exposure to different software applications that are useful in variety of areas of evolutionary biology.