Professor Lacey Knowles' Society of Systematic Biologists Presidential Address was a hot topic at this year's Evolution meeting. Knowles appeared on #Evol2014's Twitter Word Cloud meaning she was the most prominent conference speaker in the wonderful world of tweets, according to Jeremy Yoder, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota.

Knowles talk was titled “Phylogenomics and Next-Generation Inferences: the Future of Phylogenetics in an Era of Big Data.” Here is the talk abstract: Rapid shifts in taxonomic scope and numbers of loci are transforming phylogenetics. However, the awe of the scale of Big Data itself stands in the way of the field taking full ownership of this revolution, with opportunities currently being overshadowed by a number of challenges. These new challenges include a consideration of the tradeoffs surrounding data capture (especially, sampling of loci relative to taxa) and this impact on phylogenetic analyses, as well as an emphasis on broad objectives and future interoperability (as opposed to ease of data capture) as phylogenomic priorities. Because of the myriad compromises researchers make in response to new data types, more data is not equal to better inference. I discuss how next-generation inferences – with reference to both examples of estimating evolutionary relationships and addressing biological questions in phylogenetic frameworks – are key to the future of phylogenetics in an era of big data. 

Evolution 2014 is the joint annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biologists, and the American Society of Naturalists.