San Francisco The highly successful Deep Green project to construct a "tree of life" for the green plants has ended, but it has seeded new projects to strengthen the branches and root the tree more firmly in new genetic and fossil data.
Among these projects is "Deep Gene," headed by University of California, Berkeley, botanist Brent D. Mishler, and "Deep Time," headed by Doug Soltis of the University of Florida. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has agreed to fund both projects with $500,000 each over the next five years.
The success of Deep Green also has emboldened NSF to float the idea of a much larger project generating the definitive tree of life for everything, from bacteria to bats, fungi to flowering plants. NSF director Rita Colwell calls Deep Green one of the best investments the foundation has made, Mishler said.
Mishler and four colleagues will brief reporters Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. about the accomplishments of Deep Green and its proposed offshoots. Mishler, a spokesman for Deep Green, is director of UC Berkeley's University and Jepson Herbaria and a professor of integrative biology in the College of Letters & Science.
Deep Green has contributed to more than 100 research papers, Mishler said, the latest of which, in the Feb. 1 issue of Nature, nailed down the sister group of the seed plants. The work, coauthored by Kathleen Pryer and Harald Schneider of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History and Alan R. Smith and Ray Cranfill of the UC Berkeley Herbarium, provided very strong evidence that ferns and horsetails are one another's closest relatives and the group most closely related to the seed plants.
"It clarifies one big chunk of the tree," Mishler said. "We haven't completed the whole tree, but these papers one at a time have dealt with all aspects of the green part of the tree of life."
The Green Plant Phylogeny Research Coordination Group, initially funded for a five-year period by the U.S. De
Contact: Robert Sanders
University of California - Berkeley