Advanced Future Studies (AFS) Seminar (10)

The evolution of life in cities

  • Date: Thursday, May 17, 2018. 16:30-18:00
  • Venue: Kobayashi-Maskawa Seminar Room (1st floor of Maskawa Building), Kyoto University
  • Speaker: Marc T. J. Johnson (Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Canada),
         Distinguished Visiting Associate Professor, International Research Unit of Advanced Future Studies, Kyoto University
         (From April 15 to June 15)


The study of evolution in urban areas provides insights into both fundamental and applied problems in biology. The thousands of cities throughout the world share some features while differing in other aspects related to their age, historical context, governmental policies, and local climate. Thus, the phenomenon of global urbanization represents an unintended but highly replicated global study of experimental evolution. We can harness this global urban experiment to understand the repeatability and pace of evolution in response to human activity. Among the most important unresolved questions is, how often do native and exotic species adapt to the particular environmental challenges found in cities? Such adaptations could be the difference as to whether a species persists or vanishes from urban areas. In this way, the study of urban evolution can help us understand how evolution in populations may contribute to conservation of rare species, and how populations can be managed to facilitate the establishment of resilient and sustainable urban ecosystems. In a similar way, understanding evolution in urban areas can lead to improved human health. For example, human pests frequently adapt to pesticides and evade control efforts because of our limited understanding of the size of populations and movement of individuals. Applied evolutionary studies could lead to more effective mitigation of pests and disease agents. The study of urban evolution has rapidly become an important frontier in biology, with implications for healthy and sustainable human populations in urban ecosystems.

Science 03 Nov 2017: