Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates, are key players in aquatic ecosystems, provide a diverse set of ecosystem services, and are sensitive to environmental change. We study their ecology, evolution and conservation. We work with fish diversity from traits and genes in populations to the diversity of species assemblages, their change through time and the ecosystem consequences. We are particularly interested in understanding the evolution of endemic diversity within individual ecosystems, such as the radiations of cichlid fish in African lakes and the radiation of whitefish in the lakes around the European Alps. We are a single research group led by Ole Seehausen at the University of Bern but Ole also leads the Department Fish Ecology and Evolution at the Eawag Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry, Kastanienbaum, where we currently host four other research groups that are all associated with the IEE too. The work of the Eawag department is motivated by the aim to contribute to the emerging synthesis between evolutionary biology and ecosystems ecology. There we also host the Swiss Fisheries Advisory Service. Researchers in the department of vertebrates at the Natural History Museum Bern, NMBE, are also affiliated with our University division.
MolEcolRes - A denovo chromosome-level genome assembly of a Swiss Alpine whitefish
To understand how specific organisms evolve, adapt to new environments, and form new species it is important to be able to compare the DNA sequences of different individuals and organisms. The best way of doing this is to have species-specific genetic resources, such as a genome assembly, for the species of interest which allow us to find genetic similarities and differences between individuals. Reference genome assemblies are the most useful resource for doing such comparisons. However, producing genome assemblies is challenging due to the size and complexity of many genomes. To facilitate the genetic investigation of how whitefish have evolved in the last 10-15 thousand years Rishi and colleagues have produced the first whitefish genome assembly. Their high quality and complete and ordered genome assembly will assist future studies which aim to understand how whitefish with different physical and behavioural characteristics differ at the genetic level and how they evolved.