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Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster  (SBS)


Name Email Phone Room
Gordon  Burleigh jburleig@nsf.gov (703) 292-7836   
Simon  Malcomber smalcomb@nsf.gov (703) 292-8227   
Joseph  Miller jtmiller@nsf.gov (703) 292-7214   
David  P. Mindell dmindell@nsf.gov (703) 292-5113   


Apply to 15-609

The Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster supports research that advances our understanding of the diversity, systematics, and evolutionary history of organisms in natural systems. This research addresses fundamental questions in biodiversity, taxonomy, and phylogenetics, such as:  What kinds of organisms exist in the natural world? How are they related? How did evolution lead to patterns of global biodiversity in time and space? How can phylogenetic history shed light on evolutionary patterns and processes in nature? Example topics include:  expeditionary biodiversity research and discovery; identification and classification of organisms; and phylogeny and comparative phylogenetic biology. The SBS Cluster seeks to fund projects that are transformative - that is, those that innovatively and fundamentally transform our approaches to analyzing and understanding global biodiversity, its origins, distribution, and evolutionary history.  The Cluster places a high value on integrative and holistic approaches to systematics research and training - i.e., those approaches and projects that integrate across all the components within the cluster (biodiversity discovery, organismal biology, taxonomy, phylogenetics, and evolution) and that train highly integrative systematists who can conduct research across the entire spectrum of these activities.

The Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster comprises two core programs:  Biodiversity:  Discovery & Analysis and Phylogenetic Systematics. In addition, the cluster includes a unique category of proposal with specific requirements (Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics -- see Dear Colleague Letter NSF 11-037 for details).  All proposals sent to the SBS cluster should be submitted to one of the two core programs. 

1. Biodiversity:  Discovery & Analysis program. Supports all aspects of Biodiversity Science, including expeditionary and exploratory research in natural environments to advance the discovery, identification, description, classification and cataloguing of the world's biodiversity. These investigations should be focused at the organismal level and within an evolutionary context. Proposals may target any group of organisms from any natural habitat. Proposals should address biodiversity discovery questions and may entail a primarily clade-based approach (i.e., regional to planetary species-level inventories for a particular taxonomic group), a guild-based approach (i.e., focused on ecological assemblages, common habitats, or host-symbiont assemblages), or a geographically-based approach. Such projects should focus on clades, guilds, or areas for which species-level biodiversity is very poorly known, and successful proposals will make a compelling case demonstrating that lack of knowledge. Projects that include fieldwork, work in existing collections, taxonomic identifications, revisionary classifications, monographs, hypothesis testing, and bioinformatics are appropriate in this program.

Biodiversity:  Discovery & Analysis proposals should include well-documented plans for fieldwork coordination and permitting, vouchering of new collections, specimen preparation, long-term specimen storage regimes that are openly accessible, specimen identifications and descriptions, georeferencing, data modeling and databasing, and rapid dissemination of data into public biodiversity databases. The rationale for targeting specific taxonomic groups/areas and proposed sampling approaches should be well-justified. Innovative approaches, such as rapid identification/description, cybertaxonomy, and automated identification tools, are encouraged.

2. Phylogenetic Systematics program. Supports research that addresses significant questions about organismal evolution using phylogenetic approaches. The primary foci of this program are to investigate the origins of biodiversity and to resolve the relationships among species across the hierarchy of life. All "tree-based" approaches to studies of organismal evolution, including tree-building at all taxonomic levels, tree-based studies of character evolution, and tree-enabled comparative biology fall within this program. Projects that build, refine, and use phylogenies to study biogeographic distributions; temporal patterns of evolution; evolution of morphological, physiological, developmental, behavioral and molecular traits; adaptation; or other macroevolutionary patterns are appropriate. Projects that use phylogenies to produce revisionary classifications and monographs are also appropriate. Additionally, proposals that advance theory and methods of phylogenetic analysis and phylogenetic comparative approaches are also encouraged.

Phylogenetic Systematics proposals should include well-explicated methods of phylogenetic analysis, justification for targeting specific taxonomic groups, explanation of proposed data sampling approaches, well-justified phylogenetic comparative methods if appropriate, and plans for broad dissemination of results. Proposals that focus primarily on tree-based comparative biology should include a tree-building component sufficient to ensure that:  the tree(s) used for comparative studies are strongly supported; previously published trees are enhanced and augmented; and tree(s) used include sufficient sampling for the questions proposed. Such proposals should also include explanations of phylogenetic comparative methods to be used.

If proposals include fieldwork or new collections:  include well-documented plans for fieldwork coordination and permitting, vouchering of new collections, specimen preparation, long-term specimen storage regimes that are openly accessible, specimen identifications and descriptions, georeferencing, data modeling and databasing, and rapid dissemination of data into public biodiversity databases.

The Cluster also funds proposals submitted in response to the CAREER, RCN and OPUS solicitations. 

The Cluster also funds conference and workshop proposals, requests for supplemental funding, and RAPID or EAGER applications, all of which should be submitted following the standard guidelines directly to the GPG.

NOTE:  Research on biodiversity and organismal evolution is supported in various ways across the Biological Sciences Directorate, and the Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster frequently co-reviews projects with other clusters or programs.  Research projects that might be more appropriately targeted to programs other than Systematics and Biodiversity Science include:  demography and evolutionary processes below the species level; diversity of genes and genomes, or form and function, without a phylogenetic, comparative, or organismal focus; functional diversity at the ecosystem level. For proposals in these areas, please consult the Directorate for Biological Sciences website to identify programs whose priorities seem to be a good match for your research. You are always encouraged to contact a program officer for guidance about the most appropriate program for your particular research.


Advances in Biological Informatics

Genealogy of Life

Improvements to Biological Research Collections


Division of Environmental Biology (Core Programs) Solicitation

What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program

Overview of Findings from The NSF Scientific Collections Survey




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