Phylogenetics in unusual places: using model-based inference to study the evolution of antievolutionism, biogeographical dispersal, and molecular machines

Dr. Nicholas J. Matzke
1. DECRA Fellow, Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 2. Incoming Senior Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
23 March 2018 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Rountree Room 356, Level 3, Biological Sciences Building D26

Likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic methods are often viewed as just flavours of phylogenetics. However, a key advantage of these methods is their flexibility: because they rely on probability as a common currency, many disparate types of data can be combined for better inference, as long as there is a probabilistic model for each dataset. This is illustrated with several examples. First, models designed for phylogenetic dating with fossils and/or ancient DNA are used to estimate the copying history of antievolution legislation in the USA. Second, probabilistic model comparison is used to test hypotheses about the mechanisms of long-distance dispersal in phylogenetic biogeography. Finally, the role that Bayesian phylogenetics can play in improving our understanding of the evolution of organelles as well as molecular machines such as the bacterial flagellum is explored.

Nicholas J. Matzke received his Ph.D. in Integrative Biology 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley. From 2013-2015, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Mathematical Biology at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. From 2015-2018, he was a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow in the lab of Craig Moritz, Division of Evolution and Ecology at the Australian National University. He is now an incoming Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. In a previous life (2004-2007), he worked for the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit in the USA devoted to defending public school science education from political attacks, particularly in the areas of evolution and climate change. He maintains an active interest in promoting science education in the schools and in the public. Matzke's research work invents new methods and models to test hypotheses in historical biogeography, phylogenetic dating, and macroevolution, especially by combining different data (molecules, fossils, biogeography, databases) for joint use in Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian inference. His website is