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NSF 97-136
Replaces NSF 94-66



Program Announcement (Supersedes NSF 94-66)

Deadline for Receipt of Proposals: First Friday in November of each year


We are at a critical juncture for the conservation and study of biodiversity; such an
opportunity will never occur again. Understanding and maintaining that diversity is
the key to humanity's continued prosperous and stable existence on Earth.
Loss of Biological Diversity: A Global Crisis Requiring International Solutions
National Science Board 1989


Understanding biological diversity is essential for studies in environmental biology. Baseline knowledge of species-level biodiversity provides the foundation for analytical research in systematic and population biology, ecology, conservation and restoration biology, anthropology, physical geography, biological oceanography, paleobiology and other sciences. This baseline knowledge is also necessary for monitoring and assessing land-use patterns, global climate change, and the economic value of natural resources. Humanity is dependent on a diverse array of products obtained from wild species, on genetic diversity among wild relatives of domesticated species, and on the stability of natural ecosystems. All of these dependencies require the maintenance of biodiversity. Increasing rates of extinction of species, and the loss of knowledge of local species among indigenous peoples, have created an urgent need for scientific exploration to increase humanity's knowledge of species-level biodiversity across all organisms. In support of this area of research, the Division of Environmental Biology established the Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program (BS&I). BS&I invites proposals to document diversity of species throughout the world, especially fungi, prokaryotes, protists, and invertebrate animals from all marine, aquatic, and terrestrial habitats.

The Program supports research to record the species-level diversity of life on earth as a prologue to investigations of patterns and processes and the development of plans for conservation of that diversity. Support for analytical phases of biodiversity research beyond the production of electronic specimen databases, inventories, identification guides, or other products should be sought from other programs in the Directorates for Biological Sciences or Geosciences. BS&I does not provide support for phylogenetic, monographic, biogeographic, genetic, or ecological studies. The program does not accept proposals to fund assays of genetic diversity within single species, projects to monitor diversity over time, ecological comparison of the diversity in two or more sites, or studies of the functional significance of diversity at the ecosystem level.


Biotic Surveys

The majority of BS&I awards are for discovery (using traditional and/or molecular techniques), collecting, identifying, classifying and naming biota of a substantial geographic or oceanographic region. BS&I typically makes between fifteen and twenty awards in this category per fiscal year. Most awards range from $30,000 to $150,000 per year (averaging approximately $70,000 per year) and are for three years. Investigators are cautioned that the budget request should be cost- effective, commensurate with the proposed research, and fully justified in the text and budget justification. Proposals in this category should include all information discussed below under "proposal content" and "proposal format."

Long-Term, Large-Scale Inventories

Major projects to catalog thoroughly a major portion of the biota of a geographic region of continental scale usually involve multiple collaborators and complex logistics. Such projects may require several years to complete, and their successful conduct may be hampered by short funding cycles. Leaders of such projects may apply for longer- term support in the form of a series (no more than three) of five-year awards that would be administered as cooperative agreements, rather than grants. Proposers should discuss potential proposals for such projects with the BS&I program director in advance of application. In addition to all the elements described below under "proposal contenf' and "proposal format," an initial proposal for a long-term project should include:

Project director(s) on proposals in this category that are recommended for funding may be required to submit further documentation for additional merit review prior to negotiation of a cooperative agreement. Funded projects in this category will be reviewed during the third year of each five-year segment, for the next five years. This review will lead either to another five-year cooperative agreement, or to two years of interim funding. In the latter case, a new proposal in year five will undergo review, and lead either to further funding or close-out of the project.

Biotic Survey and Inventory Research Experience Supplements

A limited number of supplements will be provided annually to ongoing BS&I projects to underwrite the involvement of college undergraduates and high school students in survey and inventory research activities. Current guidelines for Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF 96-102) and Research Assistantships for Minority High School Students (NSF 89-39) should be utilized in preparing such requests. All such supplement requests must be received by the BS&I program by February 1 of each year.


Proposals submitted to the Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program should involve making collections of specimens of organisms, including cultures, stocks, or extracted macromolecules where appropriate, as samples of taxa of geographic or oceanographic regions with the purpose of discovering species new to science and documenting the occurrence of groups of organisms in those regions; developing and disseminating electronic databases of the collected specimens and taxa; and/or producing electronic biotic treatments, authenticated species lists, catalogs, keys, expert identification systems, or other types of information products. BS&I funds projects to discover biodiversity, and to provide baseline information on that diversity that can be used in future hypothesis formation and testing, analyses, and syntheses.

Products: The products of the majority of BS&I projects are expected to be new collections, discovery of species new to science, and electronic inventories of those collections and taxa. Some projects may involve extensive use of existing collections and known taxa. These projects should result in the production of electronic and electronically accessible (e.g., available via the World Wide Web to the scientific community and to the public) specimen-based databases, and other electronic information products such as keys, expert identification systems, checklists, descriptions, or taxon databases and authority files. These products should be designed to foster interactions with other disciplines, to permit the PI and/or other scientists to use the data in research and synthesis, and to benefit both formal and informal science education. The program expects these information products to be made accessible via the Internet. In addition, the results of some projects may lend themselves to publication in other media (print, compact disc, etc.). Investigators interested in developing database standards, protocols, or applications that would support a community infrastructure for survey and inventory research are encouraged to contact the program officer in Database Activities in the Biological Sciences in the Division of Biological Infrastructure at (703) 306-1470.

Urgency: There is much biodiversity to be discovered in most geographic regions or ecological habitats. However, the need for exploration of certain regions and habitats may be substantially greater than in others, because of one or more factors such as impending habitat destruction or ignorance of entire biotic systems (e.g., soil biotas). Proposals which demonstrate that the geographic region to be investigated, and/or the need for knowledge of particular group(s) of organisms is of particular importance and urgency, will be more competitive.

Schedule: The ongoing, unprecedented disappearance of species and populations on Earth and the need to discover ways to develop biodiversity resources in a sustainable manner dictate a timely research schedule in which the knowledge of biological diversity can be gained, disseminated, and used by the scientific community and others (e.g., conservation organizations, resource managers, governmental agencies, educational institutions, and the public). Biotic surveys and inventories and their information products should be scientifically expedient, not duplicate other studies, and be cognizant of other biological survey projects (ongoing and completed) in the same region. Where possible, collaborations with such endeavors should be developed to maximize the scientific outcomes. Projects should be planned such that dissemination of the information gathered during the project occurs as that information is collected or as soon thereafter as is reasonably possible.

Scale and Focus: The taxonomic content and geographic, oceanographic, or geologic scale of a survey or inventory should constitute a natural and compelling biological focus and need. The proposed project should involve sampling a diversity of taxa, rather than only a narrow group of closely related taxa. Specifically, surveys of single species or genera are excluded from submission, and surveys of single families will generally be less competitive. BS&I encourages surveys that have a very broad taxonomic scale (e.g., the full array of microorganisms from soil or water columns; fungi and vascular plants; vertebrates and their parasites). Similarly, the geographic, geologic, and logistic scales of surveys should be regional (e.g., the southeastern U.S., the Orinoco River drainage), national or larger. Biogeographic or other definitions of region, based on scientific rationale, are preferable to geopolitical definitions. Proposals that focus on little explored regions of the world and/or especially poorly known segments of the biota (e.g., prokaryotes, invertebrates, fungi, protists) are strongly encouraged, as are surveys of little-known biota of Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, both those within the U.S. and in the international LTER network.

Infrastructure: Effective survey and inventory of the world's biotic diversity will require local commitment and international cooperation. Proposals for survey activities in foreign countries must involve host country scientists and students as well as including U.S. students in the international activities. Projects in developing countries should be designed to contribute to the scientific infrastructure of those countries such that biodiversity surveys could be continued and expanded after completion of the BS&I project. Equipment (e.g., vehicles or computers) purchased on BS&I awards may be left in- country at the discretion of the awardee; however, those plans should be detailed in the proposal. Prospective PIs who wish to establish working relationships with foreign scientists prior to submitting a BS&I proposal should refer to NSF's Division of International Programs (INT) International Opportunities for Scientists and Engineers: Program Announcement (NSF 96-14). Investigators are encouraged to contact cognizant program officers in INT for additional information at (703) 306-1710.


Information on the preparation of proposals to NSF can be found under "Proposal Preparation" at http://www.nsf. gov/home/grants.htm. Proposals that do not conform to NSF 95-27, the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) and to these program guidelines will be returned unreviewed.

Proposals to the Biotic Survey and Inventory Program should include the components listed in GPG, in the sequence and format indicated. The information in each of these components should be stated as clearly and concisely as possible for merit review and evaluation by the Program. The proposal should contain all the elements listed in GPG, Section C, but particular attention should be devoted to the following information:

Title: The title of the proposal should indicate clearly the name(s) of the taxon or taxa to be surveyed- usually the scientific names, but common names may be included - and of the country or region in which the research will be conducted.

Project Summary - Proposal Section A: Maximum length: one page. Summarize the proposed survey or inventory project, emphasizing its design, rationale and impact on our knowledge of biological diversity and other disciplines, and the societal and educational relevance of the work.

Project Description--Proposal Section C: Include the following components within the description.

1. Results from Prior NSF Support (maximum length: Five of the 15
pages of text): Summarize the results of the single, most recent
biotic survey or inventory award that the PI has received from NSF in
the preceding five years (include proposal number, title, duration,
and level of funding). If previous awards within the past five years
do not involve biotic surveys or inventories, describe a single award
to the PI or co-PI(s) that is most closely related to the
current proposal.

2. Need for the Project: Describe the proposed survey or inventory
including the need and rationale for the project, with particular
reference to the following issues: