Inaugural lecture by Prof. Rachel Warnock in the Geoscience Colloquium, Wednesday July 13th at 18:00 CET in person at the GZN (room Hörsaal) and online via

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New models for old trees

The inaugural lecture by Rachel Warnock, professor for Systems Palaeobiology, GeoZentrum Nordbayern, will take place on Wednesday 13th July 18:00 in the geology lecture hall, Schloßgarten 5, Erlangen.

Abstract: Phylogenetic trees provide a framework for studying evolutionary processes at different scales, from the emergence of epidemics to the diversification of species through geological time. For many groups of extinct organisms establishing relationships often relies on small and highly incomplete datasets. In this talk, I will explore new phylogenetic tools – including the introduction of the fossilised birth-death range process (and related models) – that allow us to leverage evidence from the molecular, morphological and fossil records in a statistically coherent framework. These models present renewed opportunities to examine the role of time in phylogeny, however, questions remain about the adequacy of available tools. Using Cambrian echinoderms as a case study, I will discuss the impact of temporal evidence and models of character evolution in testing hypotheses about the origins of the animal body plan. In final part I will discuss the potential for phylogenetic models to explore cell type evolution and to assess the impact of climate change on past biodiversity. Through interdisciplinary collaborations, phylogenetics will continue to play an important role in our understanding of the evolution of life and the environment.

Short CV: Rachel’s research focuses on the role of fossils in phylogenetics and the application of phylogenetic models in palaeobiology. She has a BSc in Genetics and an MRes in Biosystematics. She completed her PhD in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol in 2014, working on Bayesian approaches to estimating divergence times. She did fellowships at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and ETH Zurich, before becoming a professor at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen Nuremberg at the GZN. Recently, she has worked on extensions of the fossilised birth-death process and approaches to estimating diversification rates. She is particularly interested the role of incomplete sampling and uncertainty in phylogenetics and macroevolution.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Warnock, Tel.: 09131 – 85 23323,