LEGS focuses on evolution and biodiversity. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach involving genomics, genetics and ecology at various levels, from genomes to species and even to communities. Different aspects of evolution are studied: adaptation, speciation, interaction between genomes and the environment, interactions between species within ecosystems and, at individual level, behavior or genome plasticity. These themes run through the activities of all the groups.
LEGS is divided into six groups:
- Molecular and functional evolution of multigenic families (Multigen), leader Didier Casane
- Evolutionary genetics, reproduction and adaptation of drosophila (GERAD), leader Catherine Montchamp-Moreau
- Evolution and bee behavior (Evolbee), leader Gérard Arnold
- Mobile genetic elements (Elegem), leader Aurélie Hua-Van
- Diversity, ecology and evolution of tropical insects (DEEIT), leader Jean-François Silvain
- Evolution and plasticity of cognitive capacities (EPCC), leader Frédéric Méry.
LEGS also has 3 technical services (Sequencing, Genotyping, Microscopy) and shared animal breeding services.
Right from the outset, scientists at LEGS have sought to reconcile basic research and applied research. Four of the groups carry out basic research. Multigen focuses on multigene families, in particular their evolution by acquisition of new functions, loss of functions and adaptive processes. Gerad studies the mechanisms leading to emerging, differentiation and diversification of species, and the factors that govern these processes. The Elegem group focuses on mobile genetic elements in genomes, both experimentally and by simulation, in particular transposons and viruses. EPCC studies memory in drosophila and has developed new non-pavlovian tests to measure memory.
The two other groups - Evolbee and DEEIT (the IRD (Institute for Research and Development) unit integrated within LEGS) - carry out applied research. The Evolbee model organism is the bee. This group is working on a genome map of this species and on its genetic diversity and behavior. Another aspect of its work is the use of bees as bioindicators of environmental quality. Members of the group are in contact with beekeepers and are involved in setting up local centers. The DEEIT group studies interactions between plants, in particular gramineae and solanaceae, and phytophagous insects and their predators and parasites in sub-Saharan Africa and South America. This unit is divided into four teams, one based within LEGS and three overseas: one in ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology) in Kenya, one in Ecuador and one in Cameroon. Field work is an important part of the research conducted at the LEGS laboratory, either concerning model organisms such as drosophila or insects that play an important role in agriculture, such as bees and insect pests, and the IRD facilities in African countries make it easier for LEGS scientists to use field stations.
LEGS coordinates and takes part in several national and international projects funded by organizations, such as ANR (National Research Agency), ATIPE (support for young scientists) and the European Commission.
LEGS has been a driving force in the creation of the Institute of Diversity, Ecology and Evolution of the living world (IDEEV), together with DEEIT, the IRD072 team, the Ecology, Systematics and Evolution laboratory in Orsay directed by Paul Leadley, and the Moulon Plant Genetics Center, directed by Dominique de Vienne. IDEEV was officially set up in January 2010 and brings together 30 groups with 250 people working on evolution in the Gif-sur-Yvette/Orsay area. IDEEV aims to develop into a scientific center of excellence recognized nationally and internationally by both students and institutions. Another aim is to create synergy between its various groups. IDEEV is taking over the work of the EVO-SUD network. In the near future, IDEEV may evolve into an Institute with its own premises and personnel.
LEGS professors and lecturers teach at various levels (Degree courses and Masters) in various fields related to evolution and biodiversity: animal biology, developmental biology, genetics, population genetics, evolution and ecology. Several research scientists also give seminars for Master 2 students on subjects related to their work.