Trait evolution working group
Trait evolution, a post-tree analysis, provides the scientific community with the ability to make inferences about processes happening both millions of years ago and as recently as HIV evolution. Incorporation of phylogenetic trees can be essential for correctly interpreting data gathered from multiple species, as these species are not independent and identically-distributed data points.
There are many methods and software programs that are used by a variety of life science disciplines to map traits onto trees. However, with the unprecedented increase in available sequence and phylogenetic data, these programs may not scale well. In some cases, the programs were written for trees with less than a thousand taxa and do not handle memory management, optimization for speed, or other aspects of program design very well for the much bigger trees that are coming online. Even well designed programs begin to get bogged down to the point where real-time use is no longer feasible for many users. There is a real risk that once the difficult job of creating a 500K taxon tree is completed by a few specialists, it will be put to only limited use by the far greater community of consumers due to an absent or underdeveloped infrastructure for dealing with such a large tree. The work done by this group in developing an infrastructure for downstream analysis of large trees is essential to maximizing the amount that can be learned about plant biology using phylogenetics and to capitalizing on the extensive work being done to optimize large-scale phylogeny reconstruction.