Meet team 6
Roderic Page - University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
Project Title: Towards realising Darwin’s dream: setting the trees free
Project Website: http://iphylo.org/~rpage/challenge/www/
INTERVIEW WITH TEAM 6
>> Academic background of team members
I am a biologist who hacks code because it's fun. As a graduate student I started doing taxonomy (describing new species of isopods and a crab), before becoming interested in phylogenetics (the reconstruction of evolutionary history). As I became interested in methodology I spent increasing amounts of time programming, developing tools such as a widely used little program called TreeView. Most recently I've been interested in the problem of integrating data from diverse data sources in biodiversity informatics.
>> Current research interests related to Elsevier Grand Challenge
My blog (http://iphylo.blogspot.com) has numerous postings where I explore the challenges of linking and annotating phylogenetic studies with information from the literature, museums, and genomic database. I'm also interested in extracting geographic information and using that to enhance the display of evolutionary trees (this feels like a return to my roots as my PhD was on biogeography).
>> Why were you inspired to enter the Grand Challenge?
For several years one line I've often used in talks is the degree to which our knowledge of evolutionary history is "locked up" in the pages of Elsevier's journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. The Challenge provides an opportunity to get access to the entire contents of the journal in a form that is easy to process. In a sense, the Challenge called my bluff. It felt as if somebody had said "OK, you keep telling us wonderful things could happen if this was freely available, so show us."
>> What do you see as the greatest challenge in finalising your Grand Challenge? (whether substantive, logistical, team composition, working solo etc.)
There is but one of me, and the challenges are many, so the lack of freely available technology to clone myself is a constraint. Aside from that, the biggest challenge of the my proposal was to extract evolutionary trees form images. This will probably prove too difficult given the time scale. However, there's much which can still be done in terms of extracting identifiers and linking entities (such as other papers, specimens, sequences, taxa, and people). It's largely a case of frantically programming.
*What would you do with the prize money?
Address aforementioned lack of cloning technology. Failing that, invest in a very nice, very large coffee maker.
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