NSF PR 00-73 - October 12, 2000
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NSF Awards $52.5 Million in Grants to Study Biocomplexity
The Interrelationship of Living
Things with the Environment
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $52.5
million in research grants to scientists and engineers
across the country to foster a better understanding
of the interrelationships that arise when living things
at all levels- from molecular structures to genes
to ecosystems--interact with their environment.
"The interplay between life and its environment is
complex," explains NSF Director Rita Colwell. "The
connections are not necessarily straightforward or
easily discerned. These ribbons of interconnections
are what NSF's biocomplexity awards will study."
In order to help preserve biodiversity, habitats, and
ecosystems, Colwell hopes to eliminate or reduce incomplete
or inconsistent scientific information. "We need to
study environmental parameters in a broadly based,
systematic manner," she says.
This systems approach is the crux of biocomplexity
studies, says Colwell. Scientists and engineers must
work in teams across diverse fields that go well beyond
biology to include physics, systems engineering, economics,
geochemistry and others, on studies that extend from
the submolecular to mass changes in climate with potential
for worldwide impact. "Past investments in molecular
biology, remote sensing, information science, and
mathematics have yielded tremendous advances and powerful
new technologies and tools that now make biocomplexity
research possible," she says. "The biggest, most exciting
scientific questions are now at the interfaces of
traditional disciplines, such as biological chemistry,
computational ecology, and environmental genetics."
NSF's Special Competition in Biocomplexity: 2000 is
the second phase of a multi-year effort. It supports
full research projects, as well as "incubation activities"
that enable groups of researchers who have not historically
collaborated on biocomplexity research to develop
projects via workshops and other planning activities.
In the biocomplexity 2000 competition, 16 research
projects and 57 incubation activities were funded,
with support from all NSF research directorates and
Research project topics range from a study of how physical,
biological and human interactions shape the ecosystems
of freshwater bays and lagoons (Mark Bain, Cornell
University); to the biocomplexity of introduced avian
diseases in Hawaii (David Duffy, University of Hawaii);
to the co-evolution of biodiversity and the environment
through geologic time (Charles Marshall, Harvard University);
to the evolution and ecology of perturbed interactions
(Claudia Neuhauser, University of Minnesota).
Incubation activities include risk assessment of nonindigenous
species (David Lodge, University of Notre Dame); understanding
the role of urbanization as a driving force of global
atmospheric change (Robert Harriss, University Corporation
for Atmospheric Research); linking large-scale hydrological
and biological processes in restoring riparian forest
ecosystems (Karen Holl, University of California at
Santa Cruz); and understanding genome evolution and
macroevolutionary diversification in green plants
(Pamela Soltis, Washington State University).
For a complete list of research projects and incubation