Dr. Tobias Baril ️⛷️

Dr. Tobias Baril

SNSF Postdoctoral Fellow

Université de Neuchâtel

I am a bioinformatician and evolutionary biologist. My research focuses on comparative genomics and evolution of eukaryotes. Specifically, I am interested in the evolution of transposable elements (TEs) and their impacts in host genomes.

TEs are DNA sequences with the ability to change their position within a host genome through a process called transposition. Through this, large blocks of DNA can be repositioned, or copied and relocated, within a host genome. This can profoundly alter host genomes, and it is likely that TEs have had significant impacts, with several examples of adaptive TEs being discovered across diverse species. For example, TEs are implicated in the evolution of the mammalian placenta, adaptive colour change in the peppered moth, and the evolution of insecticide resistance in aphid pests.

The dynamic nature of TEs can also lead to differences in TE content between individuals from the same species. This enables us to explore the potential adaptive roles of TEs by comparing populations of the same species found, for example, in different environments. Further, we can also explore TE evolutionary dynamics in this system to understand how they have persisted in host genomes over long evolutionary timescales, particularly as TE insertions are often deleterious and considered genomic parasites.

I am interested in exploring and characterising TE-host evolutionary dynamics across diverse species to understand the extent to which TEs are fundamental drivers of genome evolution. In essence, how important are TEs as a source of variation for their hosts? This can then be divided into smaller questions that form the basis of my research:

i) How have TEs persisted throughout evolution if they are considered genomic parasites, and what mechanisms result in the spread of TEs among divergent species?

ii) What factors drive population-level differences in TE abundance and diversity?

iii) How can we identify and characterise TEs involved in adaptive processes?

iv) What features of particular TEs lead to their involvement in host adaptation, and how do adaptive phenotypes driven by TEs arise?

v) How common is TE-mediated adaptation, and in which host processes are adaptive TEs most likely to arise?

Currently, I am characterising TE variation among populations of the fungal pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici with the aim of determining the impact of TEs on the observed rapid adaptation of Z. tritici during its spread across the globe, including the emergence of resistant phenotypes and changes enabling the pathogen to cope with climate challenges.

In addition, I am also continuing to develop novel bioinformatics methodologies for improved TE curation and annotation, including the development of the Earl Grey TE annotation pipeline, as well as approaches to facilitate the study of adaptive TEs.

I am currently an SNSF postdoctoral fellow working with Prof. Daniel Croll in the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics at Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland. I received my PhD in Evolutionary Genetics with Dr. Alex Hayward at the University of Exeter in 2022, where I was supported by the BBSRC SWBio Doctoral Training Partnership.

For more information on TEs, the TE community, and tools to facilitate studies on TEs, check out the TE Hub.


Earl Grey
A user-friendly and fully-automated TE curation and annotation pipeline.
Earl Grey Conda Package
A user-friendly and fully-automated TE curation and annotation pipeline.
Earl Grey Tutorial
An introduction to the Earl Grey TE Annotation Pipeline.
Docker Preconfigured Earl Grey
A preconfigured Docker image for Earl Grey (with Dfam 3.7 curated elements): A user-friendly and fully-automated TE curation and annotation pipeline.


Please drop me an email if you would like to get in contact. I'm always happy to talk TEs!