Budget 2001 Integrative Biology and Neuroscience

NSF Fiscal Year 2001
Budget Requests Excerpts

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience


   The FY 2001 Budget Request for the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience (IBN) Subactivity is $119.69 million, an increase of $25.06 million, or 26.5 percent, over the FY 2000 Current Plan of $94.63 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1999
FY 2000
FY 2001
Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Research Projects 90.68 94.63 119.69 25.06 26.5%
TOTAL, IBN $90.68 $94.63 $119.69 $25.06 26.5%

Research supported by the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Subactivity (IBN) seeks to understand the living organism - plant, animal, and microbe - as a unit of biological organization. A wide diversity of organisms is investigated as biological models to identify unifying principles common to all organisms and to document the variety of functional systems that have evolved to form living organisms. Developmental, neurobiological, behavioral, and physiological processes are studied and integrated at the subcellular, cellular, organismal, and population levels to provide an understanding of the underlying mechanisms as well as the constraints placed on adaptation and acclimation of organisms to their environment.

IBN uses various modes of support for research at the leading edge of organismal biology, from investigator-initiated research, typically comprising one or several scientists, to the multi-institutional and collaborative Science and Technology Center for Biological Timing. Emerging fields are also explored and nurtured by in-depth scientific workshops, such as those on declining amphibians that focused the attention of the research community on newly identified scientific opportunities. Support for databases, such as the comparative mammalian brain database, provides worldwide access to data resources for both teaching and research. Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) awards provide meaningful research experiences for undergraduates of diverse backgrounds by coupling research with intensive teaching and mentoring.

The powerful approach of functional genomics complements other techniques used to investigate how organisms carry out basic biological processes, such as keeping time. During 1999, research support to investigators resulted in isolating a gene responsible for iron content in plants. Combining the knowledge about this gene with the new techniques of functional genomics, it should be possible to greatly increase a crop plant's capacity to accumulate greater concentrations of iron and to survive in poor soils.

The FY 2001 Budget Request includes additional funding for the following research areas:

  • Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE). An individual organism represents a hierarchy of functional systems. In spatial scale these range from the subcellular and molecular to the behavioral levels, and in time scale these operate from the microsecond to the generational period. These systems must interact in an integrated way for the individual to survive, and must allow flexibility for the organism to adapt to changes in the environment. Multidisciplinary research is needed to clarify how these complex interactions are regulated. Support for research as part of the "2010 Project" to determine the functions of all the genes in the model flowering plant, Arabidopsis, will also be increased.

  • Information Technology Research (ITR). The increases in discovery, resources, and new technologies in integrative biology require methods that enable rapid access to voluminous data and networks. Sequencing genomes has generated large amounts of novel data providing opportunities to investigate mechanistic biology at the level of the whole organism, with particular impact in plant biology. Similarly, database storage, massive data manipulation, and computational modeling are important for understanding the complex interplay of factors during development of an organism, and for understanding the range of neural complexity in the brains of animals. Increasingly scientists from mathematics, physics and engineering are bringing their modeling expertise to biological questions, and using biological systems as inspirations for design and application of useful artificial devices. Such modeling may involve features such as the biomechanics of insect flight, structural strength of tree limbs, oscillatory properties of the neural circuits involved in locomotion, or design of remote-sensing devices for environmental sampling in real time. Community resources for computational modeling and simulations facilitate new understanding and new collaborations between theoretical and experimental approaches.

  • Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The implications of developing miniature systems for the life sciences are revolutionary. There is the potential to develop arrays of micromechanical and micro-optical systems, which can be tailored to the physical and temporal dimensions of microenvironments within an organism. For example, elastic deformation of the exoskeleton is an integral part of insect flight mechanics, but we know virtually nothing about the behavior of this biomaterial at the nanoscale and how it reflects a functional adaptation.

  • Functional Genomics and Environmental Interactions. Each individual organism interacts with the environment by integrating appropriate responses to changes in its surroundings. Signals are detected and actions executed by both plants and animals, and these behaviors can involve quite complex interrelationships. Additional research will focus on questions such as the interactions at 'points of contact' between organisms and the environment. For example, behavioral studies on both crayfish and rodents suggest that some aspects of behavioral dominance in the social environment are regulated by expression of particular genes, triggered by social interactions with other individuals.

  • Science of Learning. As we understand more about the biological mechanisms of learning and attention in the brain, it is important to integrate these findings with cognitive and educational research. The new area of cognitive neuroscience is bridging the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience, with a great impetus from new techniques for imaging the activity in normal brains during tasks like recognition, reading, and learning. The implications of these findings for education are beginning to be transferred to strategies for teaching and educational technology.

  • Broadening Participation. The IBN Subactivity has a critical role in support of broadening participation to include underrepresented groups in biology and a broad range of academic institutions while ensuring the integration of research and education in integrative biology and neuroscience. IBN will participate in expansion of the Undergraduate Mentorships in Environmental Biology (UMEB) program.

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