All around us we can witness these changes occurring in real time. They threaten our way of life on many fronts from emerging diseases and parasites to natural selection of agricultural pests. Our drugs, vaccines and pesticides induce an arms race as we try to stay one step ahead of the rapidly evolving microbes and bugs. Understanding the basic processes involved in these modifications are essential if we are win this arms race and improve the quality of life for this and future generations.
By understanding these evolutionary processes, we can tip the balance in our favor and take the steps necessary to control and cure some of the most prevalent diseases. But evolution can also be made to work for us. Artificial selection and directed evolution are used as tools to produce better crops and medicines, and to create new industries that use genes and organisms to degrade pollutants or generate biofuels.
The University of Idaho already has strength and success in this area. This effort will involve forming new collaborations among the disciplines such as life sciences, ecological sciences, mathematics, statistics, computer sciences, physics, chemistry, and engineering, to name only the most obvious.