Rapid advances in molecular methodologies, computational modeling, GIS applications, and innovations in other fields have influenced the scope and nature of ecological studies in recent decades. Techniques from genomics previously considered primarily useful in the realm of biomedical research have been adopted and adapted for use in ecological contexts, yielding insights in underlying genetic structures of populations, environment/genome associations, classification of biodiversity, quantifying genetic variation within and between groups, comparing genome structure and gene expression. The use of comparatively inexpensive next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to rapidly produce a large quantity of sequence data will continue to propel the use of informatics in ecological studies, including studies utilizing non-model organisms for which whole genome sequences are not yet available, and in metagenomics studies. Here, we describe the multi-disciplinary and innovative nature of recent ecological studies with informatics components, review some of the ways that informatics methods are being utilized to answer ecologically motivated questions, and explore the implications of these approaches for ecological studies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Friedrich Recknagel for inviting this review, and the PhRMA Foundation for a sabbatical grant to MT.
- Ecological informatics
- Functional genomics
- Gene expression
- Next-generation sequencing