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Brown ecologist garners major National Science Foundation grant

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The National Science Foundation has awarded one of its premier biology grants to Brown University evolutionary ecologist Johanna Schmitt, who will head up a team of researchers examining how environmental cues in different climates affect genes in a single species in this case, an annual weed in the mustard family.

The European native, Arabidopsis thaliana, can be found from Finland to Spain. Because of its short life cycle, the annual plant has become a model organism, whose genome has been sequenced and studied extensively. Researchers will use genomic tools to study how this plant combines information from a variety of seasonal signals, such as day length and temperature, to flower during favorable conditions. They will also examine how genetic variation in response to these signals is shaped by natural selection in different climates.

Results will shed important light on a key question in biology how organisms integrate diverse environmental signals at the molecular level to respond to changes in their surroundings. Put another way, how does natural genetic variation allow one species to thrive in so many places?

The five-year, $5-million grant is part of the NSF's Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) program. These projects pull together scientists from different areas of biology as well as other fields to answer significant scientific questions.

Schmitt's team will include experts in plant, molecular and evolutionary biology, as well as ecologists, geneticists and computer scientists from Brown, Kansas State University, North Carolina State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany.

"Scientists usually work in their separate worlds," said Schmitt, the Stephen T. Olney Professor of Natural History and professor of biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "But with this project, we'll b
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Contact: Wendy Lawton
Wendy_Lawton@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
17-Sep-2004


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