News/Phylotastic Hackathon

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Phylogenies! Hacking! Tucson in January!

An implicit promise of the Tree of Life project is that, ultimately, expert knowledge of species phylogeny will be accessible and usable by everybody. In other words, we will all be able to get the species trees we need, in a useable form, when we need them. The Phylotastic project aims to make that vision a reality, by developing a loosely coupled system of components that, in response to a user’s query (a list of taxa plus conditions), will rectify names, find suitable source trees, prune and graft to get the right species, estimate branch lengths, and return the results with metadata on sources and methods.

In June 2012, the HIP (Hackathons, Interoperability, Phylogenies) working group of NESCent staged a hackathon to prototype components of a Phylotastic system, and implement demos to show their potential. Thanks to 25 participants who responded to an open call (just like this one), that hackathon was an extraordinary success (see the Phylotastic website for details).

Now we are gearing up for a second hackathon, to take another step toward providing computable, convenient, credible access to the Tree of Life. We aim to recruit a diverse group of participants, including students, faculty, postdocs, and staff of both genders and from different backgrounds. Only some of the seats at the hackathon will be filled by expert hackers who spend their time coding. We also need folks who can:

  • Provide knowledge of workflows and downstream uses of trees
  • Design user interfaces
  • Test software
  • Make screencasts, develop tutorials, and document user experiences

Applications are now being accepted to Phylotastic 2, which will take place January 28th, 2013 to February 1st, 2013 at the BIO5 facility in warm and sunny Tucson, AZ. Information on how to apply is provided below. Partial support (and, if funds allow, full support) for travel, food and lodging will be available to each successful applicant who indicates need. We particularly welcome applications from women and members of underrepresented groups.

To understand how you might be able to contribute, review the slideshow (PPT; PDF), consult the Phylotastic web site or contact a member of the HIP leadership team (listed below).


the HIP (Hackathons, Interoperability and Phylogenies) Leadership Team


Before 16 November, 2012 at midnight, EST, complete the online form. Note that:

  • The application form asks you to describe how you can contribute to Phylotastic. Remember that we are not just looking for expert coders. There are many other ways to contribute.
  • Support for travel, housing and meals will be available to each successful applicant who indicates need.
  • Please understand that your application is not a guarantee of participation in the event. Funds and space are limited: we may not be able to sponsor every individual who is qualified to participate.


Posted to the GMOD News on 2012/10/30