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5 Questions to Tereza Manousaki, chair of the Data Analysis Committee

Read the full interview with Tereza Manousaki below:

1. Can you introduce yourself and why you decided to participate in ERGA and the Data Analysis committee?

My name is Tereza Manousaki and I'm a researcher at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece. My research focuses on evolutionary genomics and on how genome evolution is linked to species phenotypic evolution and diversification. I have followed the genome papers from the era of the Nature paper until the era of the genome note and I have been really amazed by the progress of the field. While working with genomes I have been involved in different aspects of the downstream analysis, such as population genomics, aquaculture genomics, comparative genomics and pipeline development. So it's really an amazing time to be working with genomes.

ERGA has been really fundamental in spreading the use of genomics to a wider community. It has shared knowledge and resources across many European countries, regardless of the existing capacity and infrastructure and it has been a real example of collaboration at the scientific and at the European level. Based on my background, I have decided to take a more active role within the ERGA Data Analysis Committee (DAC). I believe it is one of the most important committees because reference genomes provide the basis for a number of downstream applications which lead to a deeper understanding of species biology and evolution.

2. What are the main activities of the ERGA Data Analysis Committee?

What the ERGA Data Analysis Committee has done since the beginning was to launch questionnaires trying to map the community's interests. Since mid-2023 we also launched a very interesting seminar series called “ERGA BioGenome Analysis and Applications Seminars” organised in collaboration with the project Biodiversity Genomics Europe. This seminar series is focused on the use of genomes in the areas of populations genomics, phylogenomics, comparative dynamics and functional genomics, which are the 4 scientific areas that the DAC is focused on. The interesting thing about our seminars is that they include a main presentation introducing the topic,  and focusing on the scientific question and how it was answered; and then there is a second session which dives deeply into the problems and the difficulties that scientists faced to answer the question. So these sessions have a strong focus on the actual analysis that took place, not only on the scientific findings. Everyone is welcome to join the seminars and participate in the discussions. They are livestreamed openly through the ERGA Youtube channel, where you can also re-watch all the previous sessions.

We have also recently started DAC Community meetings which gather a very diverse group of scientists. With these meetings we aim, on one hand, to build a guide with solutions to the most important downstream application of reference genomes. On the other hand, we expect that these meetings help identify interesting topics that the community considers critical, identify gaps and grey areas, and work altogether in filling these gaps. The meetings are also open and anyone is welcome to join!

Playlist: ERGA BioGenome Analysis & Applications Seminars. (Re)watch the talks at any time.

3. What are the most interesting and the most challenging aspects of chairing DAC?

The most interesting aspect is at the same time the most challenging one: the heterogeneity of the members that are part of the community. It's an amazing privilege to have in the same group people that work on conservation, comparative genomics, phylogenomics and on functional genomics. This diversity has a great potential and we need to take advantage of it.

4. What are the developments in the analysis or practical applications of reference genomes that you are most excited about?

What I'm really excited about is the number of reference genomes that are being sequenced and made publicly and openly available by large consortia. It’s amazing how these reference genomes are covering the tree of life, which brings biology to a new era and makes us reconsider the term "non-model” species.

It’s also really interesting that now species that are rarely studied or considered “strange” organisms are having their genomes sequenced. So we don't see the favourite groups getting all the attention, but we see genome references being generated across every phylum, bringing many more opportunities in studying them.

5. What do you see as the next steps for the ERGA DAC Committee?

The next steps for the data analysis committee in the following months would be: First, to develop and offer best practices for genomic downstream analysis. And, second, to engage the community and identify gaps in the 4 particular scientific areas we're working on and then work all together to fill them.

The other thing we want to do is to continue connecting researchers with different backgrounds. We need to connect scientists that are working on software development to those who apply these softwares. And we have to go even one layer higher, reaching researchers that actually never used genomics or know very little about it. That’s the goal.



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