|...The way in which organisms react to their environments involves both short-term ecological and long-term evolutionary responses. The complexity of these interactions has made their genetic and mechanistic dissection difficult. However, recent advances in high-throughput genomic technologies and computational methods to handle the enormous amounts of data now make these complex questions tractable.
The emerging field of Ecological Genomics seeks to understand the genetic mechanisms underlying responses of organisms to their natural environments. This is being achieved through the application of functional genomic approaches to identify and characterize genes with ecological and evolutionary relevance. By its very nature, ecological genomics is an interdisciplinary field, requiring a multidisciplinary approach that combines field studies with laboratory experiments with in ecologically relevant framework. Thus, while traditionally, ecological and laboratory-based genetic/genomic studies have occupied different areas of biological investigation (see Figure), Ecological Genomics seeks to integrate these disciplines by using genomic approaches in an ecological context.
So far, Ecological Genomics refers to the use of any genome-enabled approach, whether aimed at discovering the ecological functions of single or multiple genes. We can define ecological genomics as an integrative field of study that seeks to understand the genetic mechanisms underlying responses of organisms to their natural environment. These responses include modifications of biochemical, physiological, morphological, or behavioral traits of adaptive significance.
A recent review describing the field in more detail can be found here
The Kansas State University Ecological Genomics Institute is positioned to lead this new field by providing an intellectual environment as well as resources to enable integrated research approaches that address these questions.