Kiel Evolution Center is an interactive platform that integrates and coordinates evolutionary activities in research, teaching, and public outreach in Kiel and surroundings. Next to supporting activities in the core fields of evolutionary biology, the Kiel Evolution Center promotes interdisciplinary crosstalk among evolutionary biologists and scientists from other disciplines in order to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to current major challenges in medicine, agriculture, and nature conservation.
The specific goals of KEC are to
- integrate and showcase current evolutionary research activities in the Kiel area (e.g., via this webpage),
- promote new research, particular that in translational evolutionary research that can stimulate novel solutions to currently pressing problems of societal importance,
- summarize teaching activities in the field of evolution for Bachelor, Master, and also PhD students, and
- inform the public about evolutionary concepts and the potential of translational evolutionary research through various outreach measures.
Kiel has emerged as a hotspot for evolutionary research in Germany. This includes several research groups with a focus on evolutionary topics at Kiel University (CAU), the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean research, the close proximity of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Ploen or the Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences in Borstel, a joint CAU-GEOMAR-MPI graduate school (IMPRS) for Evolutionary Biology and substantial third-party funding in the field of evolutionary biology. For example, members of the Kiel Evolution Center contribute centrally to the DFG-funded CRC 1182 “Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” or the Leibniz Science Campus “Evolutionary Medicine of the Lung” (EvoLung). Teaching modules in evolution are present across three faculties, and the International Master program on “Molecular Biology and Evolution” has a specific focus on evolutionary topics. Finally, Kiel University has devoted one of its 4 focus areas to research in “Evolving Health”.
Evolutionary biology is one of the core theories of biology and the life sciences - with increasing impact on various biological fields, medicine, agriculture, and also environmental sciences. In spite of these developments, there is still a gap between an understanding of basic evolutionary mechanisms and the transfer of that knowledge into the various disciplines of the life sciences. For example, in agriculture, the usage of anti-pest agents constitutes a large-scale selection experiment with long-term outcomes that can only be interpreted in the light of evolution. As another example, in medicine, the emergence of multi-drug resistant pathogens is a risk to effective medical intervention, but at the same time a complex, multi-selection evolution experiment. In ecology, human perturbation of the earth ecosystems (warming, overharvesting, pollution, CO2 increase) is mostly viewed as purely ecological or physiological process, while the evolutionary consequences are only recently recognized. All these areas of the life sciences greatly benefitted from incorporating evolutionary concepts, while a feed-back of empirical test cases from above areas could advance evolutionary theory.