Global Urban Evolution


GLUE Project

Urbanization is a global phenomenon, in which 1000s of cities cover up to 3% of Earth's land surface. For an evolutionary biologist, these cities represent an amazing opportunity to study evolution in action.

The GLUE project is an initiative that will provide the largest scale, best replicated test of parallel evolution ever attempted. To do this, we will study the evolution of the production of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) in white clover (Trifolium repens). We previously showed that white clover evolves parallel clines in HCN (a potent chemical defence) along urban-rural gradients in eastern North America. To learn more about this work visit: K.A. Thompson, M. Renaudin, M.T.J. Johnson, Urbanization drives the evolution of parallel clines in plant populations. Proc. R. Soc. B 283, 20162180 (2016).

GLUE will answer two general questions:

  1. Does urbanization cause parallel evolution globally?

  2. What are the features of cities and the climatic factors that determine whether or not populations adapt to urban environments?

What's Involved
in being a Participant

Authorship &
data policy

learn more
urban evolution

our participants

What is Involved?

When all is said and done, it will take each collaborator ~1 week to sample a city, from planning to data. The GLUE organizers will send you detailed instructions and physical materials for sampling plants (protocols here), assaying the presence of the loci we are targeting, and entering the data. You will need access to a lab and some standard equipment (-80°C freezer, 37°C incubator, pipettes). You will also need to purchase some sealable lunch bags, 96-well plates, 1.5mL tubes and cryoboxes. The total cost to your lab will be ~$200 (price list here) plus gas.

Authorship and Data Policy

Individuals that design transects, sample plants, perform assays and enter data will be full collaborators on the project and be offered coauthorship on the first major paper from the GLUE project. An individual team that samples a city will typically consist of no more than three individuals, and each member should contribute substantially to the design and sampling of plants. Authorship on any subsequent papers will depend on whether analyses make use of new data or previously published data. When new data is used from the samples collected by your group, coauthorship will be offered. When previously published data is used in a paper, coauthorship may not be offered. Collaborators should not publish their data or make use of their data in papers until the first major paper from the GLUE project is published. After publication of the first paper, collaborators are free to make use of the data they collected or to use data from the GLUE project, which will be made publicly available. If you do plan to write a paper that makes use of the consortium’s data we would kindly ask that you contact the GLUE PI (Marc Johnson), to ensure that there are no competing projects already in development. Papers that only make use of the data collected by your group require no consultation so long as the 1st major paper from the GLUE project is already published. We would be grateful in any case if you could make us aware of your plans in the event that there are potential avenues for synergy and collaboration.


Urban Evolution Research

Below is a list of recent urban evolution papers:

  1. C. M. Donihue, M. R. Lambert, Adaptive evolution in urban ecosystemsAmbio 44, 194-203 (2014).

  2. M. Alberti, Eco-evolutionary dynamics in an urbanizing planetTREE 30, 114-126 (2015).

  3. M. T. J. Johnson, J. Munshi-South, The evolution of life in urban environmentsScience  358, eaam 8327

  4. M. T. J. Johnson, K. A. Thompson, H. S. Saini, Plant evolution in the urban jungleAmerican Journal of Botany 102, 1951-1953 (2015).

  5. M. Alberti, Urban driven phenotypic changes: Empirical observations and theoretical implications for eco-evolutionary feedbackPhil. Trans. R. Soc. B 372,  (2017).

  6. M. J. McDonnell, A. K. Hahs, Adaptation and adaptedness of organisms to urban environments. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 46, 261-280 (2015).