Budget 2001 Environmental Biology

NSF Fiscal Year 2001
Budget Requests Excerpts

Environmental Biology


   The FY 2001 Budget Request for the Environmental Biology (DEB) Subactivity is $119.23 million, an increase of $29.40 million, or 32.7 percent, over the FY 2000 Current Plan of $89.83 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1999
FY 2000
FY 2001
Environmental Biology Research Projects 86.18 89.83 119.23 29.40 32.7%
TOTAL, DEB $86.18 $89.83 119.23 $29.40 32.7%

The Environmental Biology Subactivity (DEB) supports fundamental research on the origins, functions, relationships, interactions, and evolutionary history of populations, species, communities, and ecosystems. Studies, which can occur in any natural or human-impacted biotic system of the world, and can address 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.

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. Basic research in ecology and evolution is sustained through disciplinary programs, 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 environmental datasets; organismal data from field studies and natural history collections; and molecular data from genomic sequencing - all require new integrative approaches and skills. National platforms supported include the Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, and the network of Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, which include urban and marine coastal sites.

Long-term research on stream ecosystems at the Luquillo LTER site in Puerto Rico established a strong cause and effect relationship between freshwater shrimp production and streamflow. Based on their long-term studies, LTER scientists advised land planners that a proposed plan to dam streams to create a drinking water reservoir for the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, would prevent the movement of shrimp upstream and decimate the shrimp fishery. Scientists and planners working together devised a new plan to install intake pipes and reduce the amount of water to be diverted from the streams. The new plan not only provided the water needed for San Juan but also allowed for the sustained production of shrimp. This example demonstrates how long-term research and an understanding of biocomplexity can inform policy and management decisions resulting in a compromise that benefits both natural and social systems.

Some of the activities that will be supported in FY 2001 include increases for the following emphases:

  • Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE): Support will be increased for investigations on the origin and dynamics of complexity in biological systems and studies that integrate and synthesize extant and new information to achieve a predictive understanding of system behavior. In particular the focus will be on research as related to changes in biodiversity, the structure and function of ecological communities, and ecosystem processes, such as biogeochemical cycling; awards will be increased in size and number. Part of the BE increase will go to support fundamental research which can form the nucleus for future NEON activities and directly contribute to the Integrated Science for Ecological Challenges effort. Specifically, studies on the evolutionary and ecological dynamics of invasive species and on ecological restoration will be increased. Resources will also be enhanced to curate environmental biological data, establish long-term data archives, ensure data access, and provide a mechanism for the systematic curation of new data collections. Finally, functional genomic studies, which explore the linkage between plant gene products identified as part of the "2010 Project" and evolutionary and ecological processes which then feed back into genetic change through natural selection, will be initiated.

  • Information Technology Research (ITR): An increase will support computational research to enhance the capability of ecological and evolutionary models to predict changes in biodiversity and ecological systems. A collaboratory linking computational and ecosystem researchers will be established to attempt to breach the boundary between the limitations of experimental data and the practical need for predictive ecosystem models.

  • Functional Genomics: Recognizing the expanding role that genomics plays in DEB sciences, an increase will support investigations that employ data from functional genomics research to understand the fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes that determine the nature and dynamics of the world's ecological systems. Related research, which uses genomics tools to enhance our understanding of the biodiversity of lesser-known groups in major biomes such as microorganisms, will be increased.

  • Broadening Participation: Efforts to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in field biology and foster the integration of research and education across a diversity of academic institutions will be enhanced by expanding the Undergraduate Mentorship in Environmental Biology program to include a greater range of biological sub-disciplines and investigators.

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