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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 46 | 17. Juli 2017
Priority Programme “Rapid Evolutionary Adaptation: Potential and Constraints” (SPP 1819)

In June 2015 the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Rapid Evolutionary Adaptation: Potential and Constraints” (SPP 1819). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

The vast diversity of life on earth is the result of evolutionary processes that acted for billions of years. Consequently, it is often assumed that evolution requires long periods of time. Evolutionary adaptation to new environments as driven by natural selection can, however, occur very rapidly within tens of generations. This raises two questions: (1) What are the mechanisms of rapid adaptation? (2) Which factors enable and which factors prevent rapid adaptation? The Priority Programme addresses these questions by combining new developments in evolutionary theory with empirical investigations of rapidly adapting and experimentally tractable systems of animals, plants, and eukaryotic microorganisms. In host-parasite systems, this may include prokaryotic parasites of eukaryotic hosts. The research programme will reveal insights about possible consequences of human-induced global change for future perspectives of biodiversity and the adaptive potential of natural and cultivated species.

Research projects in this programme have a strong conceptual foundation in population genetics, ecological theory or evolutionary biology, to investigate the relationship of phenotypic and genetic evolution. The first objective of this Priority Programme is to investigate whether the potential for rapid adaptation is predominately dependent on the selective fixation of new mutations (hard selective sweeps) or changes in allele frequencies of standing genetic variation (soft selective sweeps). The second objective is the identification and investigation of factors that constrain rapid adaptation such as phenotypic plasticity, demographic changes (e.g. of population size), genetic and genomic architecture, or environmental heterogeneity.

To bridge the gap between eco-evolutionary concepts and empirical research, research projects should combine theoretical approaches with empirical studies of suitable taxa. Theoretical methods include coalescence theory or other population genetic models, as well as quantitative genetic, demographic or ecological modelling. Empirical studies are based on state-of-the art genomic and phenotypic analyses of laboratory experiments, field trials or natural populations. By combining theoretical analyses with empirical studies, this programme takes advantage of the current genome sequencing technology and will move research beyond the descriptive analysis of genomic variation towards a detailed understanding of evolutionary processes.

Each research project in the Priority Programme will belong to at least one of the following four thematic groups:

  • population genetic and ecological theory of rapid adaptation
  • phenotypic evolution and rapid adaptation: plasticity versus genetic responses
  • genomic sources of adaptive variation for rapid change
  • co-adaptation of interacting species

Projects in the first group develop theoretical models of rapid adaptation for individual and interacting species and will implement statistical tests of the extent and type of selection occurring in rapidly adapting systems. Models and tests will be applied to data originating in other projects of the Priority Programme or to publicly available data. The other groups focus on the phenotypic, genomic or co-evolutionary factors associated with rapid adaptation and conduct empirical studies, which need to have a strong foundation in evolutionary theory and derived hypotheses.

Suitable study systems are single or interacting species of animals, plants, and eukaryotic microorganisms (including prokaryotic parasites in host-parasite systems) with already established evidence of very recent or ongoing rapid adaptation within few tens of generations or which are amenable to experimental evolution. The study systems are accessible to phenotypic characterisation, genomic analysis and hypothesis testing in laboratory experiments, controlled field trials, or natural environments. Examples for interacting species include plant or animal hosts and their pathogens, and predator-prey systems. The Priority Programme does not fund projects that are purely descriptive or investigate rapid evolution in the distant past (i.e., species radiations). It focusses on naturally occurring genetic variation and does not include systems with experimentally altered mutations or mutation rates or pathogens under rapid adaptation to antibiotics. Adaptation is defined in an evolutionary context, and purely plastic responses to environmental changes without any heritable component are not in the focus of this programme.

Project applications can be submitted by individual researchers or as joint projects that typically involve two groups which combine expertise in theoretical analysis and empirical studies.

Research proposals for the second three-year funding period are now invited and can be submitted by 7 November 2017 (deadline). Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system elan, selecting “SPP 1819 Rapid Evolutionary Adaptation”. Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 27 October 2017 to submit a proposal under this call. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

In addition, we kindly ask you to send a short summary of the proposed research (applicant(s), preliminary title, plus a maximum of five lines of text) no later than 22 September 2017 by e-mail to the speaker (see below).

If you would like to submit a proposal for a new project within the existing Priority Programme, please go to Proposal Submission – New Project – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 1819” from the current list of calls. Previous applicants can submit a proposal for the renewal of an existing project under Proposal Submission – Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal. All proposals should be submitted in English. Please include a title page with your name, your address, and the title of your project in your application.

Depending on the number of applications the review process might include a colloquium with the applicants and will tentatively be scheduled to take place in Stuttgart in March 2018.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available at:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact:

This text is available at Interner Linkwww.dfg.de/foerderung/info_wissenschaft/2017/info_wissenschaft_17_46/ .
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