Guide to Programs Splash Page Skip Navigation Search Guide to Programs    NSF   Questions   NSF E-Bulletin   OLPA Home   NSF Site Map   NSF Home

This document has been archived. For current NSF funding opportunities, see

Directorate for Biological Sciences
Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience

IBN supports research aimed at integrative understanding of living organisms—plants, animals, and microbes—as units of biological organization. Such research encompasses:

  • the mechanisms by which plants, animals, and microbes develop, grow, reproduce, regulate their physiological activity, and respond to their environment;
  • the integration of molecular, subcellular, cellular, and functional genomics approaches to understand the development, functioning, and behavior of organisms in both laboratory and natural settings;
  • all aspects of the nervous system, including its structure, function, development, and integration with the physiological and behavioral systems affected by it;
  • factors influencing the behavior of animals in the laboratory and field;
  • whole-organism approaches to physiological ecology; and
  • the form and function of organisms in view of their evolution and environmental interactions.

Synthetic and analytic approaches that address this integration often require advanced computational techniques and interdisciplinary perspectives involving other areas of biology, behavioral science, physical science, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. In addition, the development and use of a wide diversity of organisms as biological models are encouraged to assist both in identifying unifying principles common to all organisms and in documenting the variety of mechanisms that have evolved in specific organisms. Current scientific emphases include biotechnology, biomolecular materials, environmental biology, global change, biodiversity, molecular evolution, plant science, microbial biology, and computational biology, including modeling. Research projects generally include support for the education and training of future scientists.

The IBN Division also supports doctoral dissertation research; research conferences, workshops, and symposia; computational biology research; Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology; and a variety of NSF-wide activities.

Developmental Mechanisms Cluster

The Developmental Mechanisms Cluster of thematic areas is located within the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience (IBN) and supports research on the nature, control, and evolution of processes that comprise the life cycle of organisms. Approaches range from molecular genetics and genomic analysis of developmental processes to the experimental manipulation of whole organisms. Supported in this cluster is research on gametogenesis, fertilization embryogenesis, differentiation, pattern formation, morphogenesis, and areas of development specific to plants, animals, and/or microbes (e.g., self-incompatibility, seed and fruit development). Also supported are studies that explore the mechanisms of development in an evolutionary context.

Neuroscience Cluster

The Neuroscience Cluster of thematic areas is located within the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience and supports research on all aspects of the nervous system structure, function, and development. Integrative approaches to basic research range from fundamental mechanisms of neuronal function at the molecular and cellular levels to adaptations of the brain for appropriate behavior in particular environments. A major focus is the development and use of a wide diversity of organisms as biological models for understanding fundamental principles of neuroscience. Multidisciplinary collaborative research projects are encouraged to apply different types of research techniques to single-focused problems in neuroscience.

Supported in this cluster is research on neural regulation of behavioral events, ranging from simple movements to complex adaptive and interactive responses; and studies that explore the computational functions of neurons, neural circuits, and nervous systems and encourage the development and testing of mathematical or computer models of neural systems. Also included is research on the development, regeneration, and aging of the nervous system, including aspects of cell lineage and determination; axonal navigation and cell migration; regulation of gene expression; neuronal morphogenesis; and neuron-glia interactions.

This cluster also supports research on understanding multifaceted relationships among the central nervous system, hormones, and behavior, especially in relation to environmental factors. This includes how the brain controls endocrine secretion and the effects of steroid and peptide hormones on the brain. Innovative approaches and techniques for exploring the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal and glial cell function, including energy metabolism, ion and substrate transport, and synaptic mechanisms, are also supported. Included in this thematic area are studies of the mechanisms by which the nervous system acquires, encodes, and processes information about the environment, and research on neural processes at the molecular, cellular, systemic, and behavioral levels and psychophysical correlates of sensory neural processes.

Physiology And Ethology Cluster

The Physiology and Ethology Cluster of thematic areas is located within the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience (IBN) and supports integrative studies of physiological functions at the genomic, cellular, systemic, and organismal levels, and animal behavior in both field and laboratory settings. Also considered are Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) proposals.

The cluster supports research on the mechanism, development, function, and evolution of all animal behavior, including behavioral ecology and evolution; nonhuman learning and cognition; behavioral genetics; development of behavior; and behavioral physiology and motivation, including behavioral endocrinology, animal communication, and animal orientation. Also included are studies that address ecological or evolutionary questions in the areas of morphology, comparative physiology, physiological ecology, and biomechanics of plants, animals, protists, fungi, and bacteria, with emphasis on the study of whole organisms, living or extinct. These studies focus largely on how physiological or morphological mechanisms have evolved and how they may influence evolutionary pathways or interactions between organisms and their biotic or physiochemical environments. The cluster supports research on the basic physiological mechanisms at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, and whole animal level, with emphasis on the whole animal as an “integrated system.” This includes studies of comparative physiology, functional morphology, endocrinology, epithelial transport, and biomechanics. Another focus is on understanding plants as “functional units” through the integration of genomic, molecular, biochemical, and biophysical approaches to studies of plant form and function. Examples include hormonal and environmental regulation of plant function, plant physiological interactions with pathogens, nitrogen-fixing organisms, mycorrhizae, and other beneficial or pathogenic organisms in the rhizosphere. The emphasis is on understanding the physiological and metabolic basis of plant responses to such interactions.

Back to top
The National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: 703-292-5111, FIRS: 800-877-8339 | TDD: 703-292-5090