UC Riverside visit

Not yielding to the coronavirus! Eyal visited Jessica and Alan in Riverside, to discuss the BSF project on genome evolution (linkage mapping 10 formicine species), to meet with their lab members, and to sample the Mohave Desert (not so much the ants... but the Joshua Trees were awesome!)

New lab members

Welcome Yoann, Felix and Volans!

The lab expanded significantly in the last few months, despite substantial COVID challenges. Yoann was the first to make it over from France in January. He started his PhD project on the evolution of ligand specificity in CHC-sensitive odorant receptors, which is a collaboration with the Liebig lab in Arizona State University. Next came Felix from Germany. He's already extracting Pogonomyrmex barbatus samples sent over by Deborah Gordon, for a project on the evolutionary genomics of colony-level variation in foraging behavior in collaboration with the Gordon lab in Stanford. Finally, Volans arrived from Taiwan (after finishing his PhD in Kyoto). He joined the main project in the lab - the evolution of social structure in Cataglyphis. He is starting to look at additional species beyond our focal species C. niger.

New lab records

Aparna just finished constructing RADseq libraries for her project on social polymorphism in Cataglyphis niger, and shipped them for sequencing. She broke the lab record for the largest number of libraries in a population genomics project - about 800 libraries! The previous record was made by Shani, who built 300 whole-genome libraries for her project on GWAS of CHC variation among colonies. Aparna pooled her 800 libraries into a single tube that will be sequenced on a whole flowcell (8 lanes) of a HiSeq X sequencer. We're aiming for more than 3 billion pairs of reads, which should give us an average of 20X sequencing depth per sample.

We also got the Hive report for CPU usage in 2020 - Pnina was the top user (by a big margin). She used 149,961 CPU hours in total.

Multi-omics and machine learning workshop

We concluded our 7th Haifa Winter Workshop in Bioinformatics, which was focused on multi-omics and machine learning applications in omics. It was especially challenging this time around because of a tough combination of covid-19 (ZOOM!) and machine learning... But all went well, especially due to our dedicated team of TAs (Tal Zaquin, Osnat Weissberg, and Mark Izraelson) and lecturers (Daniel Sher, Maya Lalzar, and I), as well as some great invited speakers - see details in the workshop program.

Israeli Evolutionary and Zoological meetings concluded

Over the last days we participated in two Israeli meetings. These were online meetings, obviously, so unfortunately no photos. But it quite was an experience!

The second meeting of the Israeli Society for Evolutionary Biology, which was co-organized by Eyal again (check out the new website!). Many members of our Institute and Department presented in this meeting, including three talks(!) of our lab members: Pnina presented her GWAS results, including the first evidence for genetic loci that affect variability in curricular hydrocarbons (CHCs) among ant colonies (Cataglyphis niger). Aparna presented her study of the genomic architecture of social polymorphism in C. niger. Volans (who is about to join the lab as a postdoc) presented his PhD study on population genomics of the yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes).

We also participated in the meeting of the Israel Zoological Society, which was hosted by the University of Haifa and organized by Eran Tauber (Eyal helped a little). It was a unique experience especially because of the use the online platform Remo that creates a virtual conference center with virtual auditoria, and people sitting together around virtual tables. It was very nice although technically challenging...