Natural Sciences Colloquium
Students are welcome!
Dr. Michael Wiser
Michigan State University
Title: What evolution in a computer can tell us about the importance of environmental change
The world is not constant. Environmental conditions fluctuate in cycles of days, months, seasons, and years, on top of long-term trends that last from decades to millennia. How does evolution proceed in the face of a changing environment? Several genetic mechanisms are hypothesized to be important to this adaptation, yet their ubiquity makes them extremely difficult to study in a controlled experiment; how can we isolate the role of certain types of mutations if we can’t prevent them in a treatment? To address these issues, I’ve been performing evolutionary experiments in a computational system, where self-replicating, error-prone computer programs compete for digital resources. By alternately allowing or preventing particular types of mutations, we can measure their impact, and thus their importance to adaptation in a changing world.