Going Green

The Green Algae Tree of Life (GrAToL) is a project involving the collaboration of five institutions to understand the evolutionary relationships of all of the major groups of green algae, a diverse group of more than 14,000 photosynthetic species.

Green algae are abundant and play important roles in a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including deserts, extremely salty ponds, and coral reefs, and several species are symbiotic partners with lichens and animals. Thus, green algae are important primary producers in most ecosystems. Green algae are diverse in form – from microscopic single cells to large seaweeds – and function as important primary producers in most ecosystems. The project will employ DNA sequence data to assemble a tree of life reflecting the evolutionary history of the group. This tree will be critical for an improved classification of known species of algae as well as species that are yet to be discovered. The project will facilitate further studies of green algae genomics and evolution.

The project will train 3-4 postdoctoral researchers, several graduate students, and numerous undergraduate students in basic research on algae and genomics. New analytical tools will be developed for use by the broader scientific community. A public exhibit on the GrAToL will be produced, along with a web site containing images and other information on evolution of the group that will be of interest to educators and the general public.

The National Science Foundation has funded the project entitled “AOL: Collaborative Research: Assembling the Green Algal Tree of Life (GrAToL)” for five years starting September 1, 2010. The Green Algae Tree of Life (GrAToL) is a project involving the collaboration of five institutions to understand the evolutionary relationships of all of the major groups of green algae, a diverse group of more than 14,000 photosynthetic species worldwide.

Key to green algae in panel of images:
a. Haematococcus (Chlorophyceae; scale bar: 10 µm)
b. Pediastrum (Chlorophyceae; scale bar: 10 µm)
c. Eremosphaera (Trebouxiophyceae; scale bar: 10 µm)
d. Batophora (Ulvophyceae; scale bar: 5 mm)
e. Chlorokybus (Chlorokybophyceae; scale bar: 10 µm)
f. Staurastrum (Zygnematophyceae; scale bar: 10 µm)
g. Coleochaete (Coleochaetophyceae; scale bar: 10 µm)
h. Chara (Charophyceae; scale bar: 5 mm)