Biological Sciences        Page 15

Environmental Biology


   The FY 1999 Budget Request for the Environmental Biology Subactivity is $90.63 million, an increase of $11.79 million, or 15.0 percent, over the FY 1998 Current Plan of $78.84 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1997
FY 1998
FY 1999
Environmental Biology Research Projects 77.56 78.84 90.63 11.79 15.0%
TOTAL, ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGY 77.56 78.84 90.63 11.79 15.0%

   The Environmental Biology Subactivity (DEB) supports basic research on natural and human-impacted biotic systems of the world, including their species composition; the genealogical relationships among plants, animals, and microbes; the flux of energy and materials that sustains or degrades ecological communities; and the principles or rules by which species function in ecosystems and evolve through time.

   Basic research in ecology and evolution is sustained through core program activities in Environmental Biology, all of which are undergoing long-term transformation as they incorporate new methods and tools from computational and molecular biology. The acquisition and analysis of very large datasets environmental data from climate, soils, and water; organismal data from field studies and natural history collections; molecular data from genomic sequencing require new integrative approaches and skills. Likewise, the revolution in DNA sequencing and cloning is transforming traditional studies in ecology and taxonomy; molecular probes make possible the identification and quantification of microbial species and their functions in ecosystem processes, while genealogical relationships between organisms can be measured directly from large-scale genomic comparisons.

   Examples of major activities supported by DEB include: biodiversity studies, molecular evolution, and genomics; microbial ecology, climate impacts, and ecosystem dynamics; computational biology; and conservation biology and restoration ecology. National platforms are supported including the Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, and the network of Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, now including sites in human-dominated, urban systems and marine coasts.

   The FY 1999 Budget Request includes an increase of $11.79 million for a total of $90.63 million to support the following:

  • Investments in Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence will be increased to build common data standards, data and information systems and networking tools to foster interdisciplinary cooperation and the integration of spatially distributed research activities and data archives.

  • In the Life and Earth's Environment theme, DEB will make additional investments in the LTER network observatories system, including new capacities for the study of microbial systems as part of these observatories. Also as part of the Life and Earth's Environment theme, a system of observatories in human dominated ecosystems will be further developed. Additional support will be applied to the study of urban communities as ecological systems, including Urban LTERs. Enhancement of LTER funding this year will support cross-site studies which will permit comparisons with research results from similar sites in other countries.

  • To foster integrated research across levels of biological organization, DEB will participate in the BIO-wide competition for Integrated Research Challenges in Environmental Biology. Research supported through the competition will focus on complex scientific problems requiring interdisciplinary approaches and longer duration. Current investments in integrated research challenges in environmental sciences with a cross-directorate emphasis will also be enhanced.

  • Resources will be increased at undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels to integrate research and education. REU supplements, including special team supplements in biodiversity informatics, the C-RUI activity and the CAREER initiative for beginning academic investigators will be increased.

  • Basic research in ecology and evolution will be increased through the core program activities in Environmental Biology which are being transformed by emerging advances in informatics and genomics. DEB will increase the size and duration of grants to maintain research productivity.

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