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Information system to help scientists analyze mechanisms of social behavior

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With a $5 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will create BeeSpace, a system to help scientists analyze all sources of information relevant to the mechanisms of social behavior.

The complex society of the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, will drive the information system. The system will be a software environment that "will help to shed light on an unprecedented scale on the relationship between genes and how lives are carried out in an animal society," said principal investigator Bruce Schatz, professor of library and information science.

"We will take a fresh look at the fundamental problem of the mechanism of behavior, whether behavior is caused by nature or nurture," said Schatz, who also directs the Community Architectures for Network Information Systems (CANIS) Laboratory, a campus resource for new information systems.

"Worries abound over the ethical implications of genetic determinism," he said. "The goal of BeeSpace is to help forge a deeper understanding of the relationship between genes and behavior that transcends nature-nurture. This project will use genomic biology to demonstrate that what matters for social behavior is that DNA is both genetically inherited and environmentally responsive."

BeeSpace was one of six awards totaling $30 million announced today (Sept. 16) as part of the NSF's Frontiers of Integrative Biological Research (FIBR), a program now in its second year.

BeeSpace will be housed in the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), now under construction on Gregory Drive in Urbana. The $75 million state-of-the-art facility, which will open in mid-2006, will be home to 400 campus researchers in three broad areas: systems biology, cellular and metabolic engineering, and genome technology.

"We are pleased to provide the institutional support for BeeSpace, which will be a flagship project for the instit
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Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
jebarlow@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
16-Sep-2004


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