Bioinformatics Education Dissemination: Reaching Out, Connecting and Knitting-together

Introduction to the Desiccation Tolerance Problem Space

From Phylogeny to Phylogeography:

This problem space is designed to allow exploration of the remarkable ability of some plants to undergo desiccation and revive with the addition of water. This ability is ancient, and modern day descendants of the earliest land plants, such as mosses, retain this ability. Vascular plants have lost desiccation tolerance in all tissues except seeds, pollen and spores, but it has re-evolved in a few species. The problem space includes information on the evolutionary relationships of genes involved in desiccation tolerance, gene expression data for desiccation sensitive and tolerant plants, data and tools for exploring of geographical distribution of a dessication tolerant and related dessication sensitive species, and tools for understanding information entropy and the principle of maximum entropy used in an ecological niche modeling application. The materials in the problem space are ideal for exploring agricultural applications. For specific activities developed in conjunction with this problem space, see the Curricular Resources.


  • To use phylogentic analysis of genes to identify families of genes common between evolutionarily basal desiccation tolerant plants, such as mosses, and desiccation tolerant and sensitive vascular plants.
  • To explore the expression pattern of specific genes within these gene families in desiccation tolerant and sensitive vascular plants.
  • To access and visualize biodiversity data (species occurrence and ecoregions).

  • To use biodiversity informatics tools for modeling species distributions.
  • To understand the meaning of information entropy, and the principle of maximum entropy.
  • To explore agricultural applications of this information.

  • Potential Investigations:

  • Explore methods for enhancing agricultural plants in drylands or areas at risk of increased desertification.
  • Build gene phylogenies and compare with expression patterns in sensitive and tolerant plants.
  • Explore the evolutionary relationships between desiccation tolerant and desiccation sensitive vascular plants using phylogeography.
  • Motivate and explore the definition of information entropy.

  • These are just a few of the possible investigations? Feel free to devise your own!

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