The overarching goal of SPSAS-evo is to provide opportunities for close interaction among students and leading experts conducting cutting edge research in Evolution, as well as to stimulate interdisciplinary discussion about hot topics in Evolutionary Biology. To achieve this goal, the school schedule will be organized around a series of lectures, directed studies and poster sessions. The specific aims of the school are:
1. Exposure: lectures by the invited speakers are intended to expose students to state-of-the-art research as well as the most important issues that need to be addressed in order to advance our understanding of Evolution.
2. Discussion: the themes explored during the lectures should serve as "food for thought" in a subsequent series of discussion that will be conducted in the form of directed studies.
3. Writing: as a roundup to the directed studies, students are expected to write essays addressing selected topics.
The school is organized around a hierarchical division in modules and themes (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Conceptual map of the school organization. Each module is divided in themes that will be discussed daily during SPSAS-evo.
Each module corresponds to one of three major areas within Evolutionary Biology:
1. microevolution, i.e. the study of the evolution at the population level, usually employing genetic tools
2. macroevolution or the study of evolution operating at or above the species level
3. integrative approaches, i.e. research that sits on the crossroads between micro and macroevolution and that draws from genetics, molecular biology, geology and chemistry to address fundamental questions within the evolutionary paradigm.
The nine days of course activities will be divided into 3 three-day blocks corresponding to each one of the modules. Each day will be devoted to one specific theme and filled with activities designed to fulfill the specific aims outlined above (Fig. 2).
Figure 2. Schematic organization of a module and example of a typical day during SPSAS-evo.
For instance, the macroevolution module may be hypothetically organized around three invited speakers: a paleontologist, an evo-devo expert and an expert in the evolution of complex characters. Each speaker will give two talks on the theme of the day during the three day block, totaling 6 talks per module. Talks will be arranged so as to contrast views from experts with different backgrounds, fostering interdisciplinary discussions about the theme of the day. A tentative assignment for this hypothetical block could be:
Day 1 - Evolutionary novelties (paleontology + complex character talks)
Day 2 - Phylogenetics: the importance of fossils and embryos (paleontology + evo-devo talks)
Day 3 - Homology and character evolution (evo-devo + complex character talks)
Every block will follow the same schedule (Fig. 2). Talks will take place in the morning; afternoons will be devoted to discussion and directed studies; lab presentations and individual studies will take place in the evenings.
Morning talks are designed to expose students to the status quo of select themes. Speakers are expected to stimulate a broad debate about the theme and to dedicate part of the allotted time to discussion of future research directions within the scope of each module.
Directed studies will be conducted in the afternoon, with the goal of promoting close exchange among students and speakers. Participants will be split into 8 groups of ten students each. These groups are to be maintained during each module, but may be re-formed during subsequent modules. The assignment of students to each group will be based on shared interests among group members. Every group will be mentored by one of the invited speakers.
During the directed studies, each student is expected to produce contents for at least one wiki-style webpage that will address an evolutionary topic of his/her choice and that is deemed relevant by the group mentor. Hence, as end products of the course, 80 authoritative, expert reviewed essays will be published at Wikidot, thus fulfilling FAPESP's mandate to generate outreach material.
At the end of each afternoon, two module speakers and one speaker from another module will lead a round table about the theme of the day, wrapping up discussions on the subject.
Lab presentations by Brazilian researchers will take place in the early evening. The remaining time will be used by the students to generate content for the wiki pages and also to prepare the end-of-course paper.
Besides the wikipage, students are expected to turn in, at the end of the program, a short manuscript (2 pages max) that briefly outlines the structure of a review paper or essay on a relevant evolutionary problem. The manuscript should clearly state the importance of the chosen topic as well as the best way to address it. It should be viewed as kind of white paper written in the format of a pre-submission inquiry. It will be co-authored by three students and it is supposed to be presented as a 5 minute talk. The best manuscripts will be selected by the invited speakers and the organizing committee and published on the SPSAS's companion volume.