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NSF announces six 'FIBR' awards to tackle some of biology's most challenging questions

ARLINGTON, Va.-- How exactly do animals move? How do organisms adapt to newly acquired genes? What genetic forces draw members of an ecological community together? And does social behavior originate in nature, nurture or both? To tackle these and other major questions in biology, the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced six new awards totaling nearly $30 million over five years from its Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) program.

Each of the five-year awards brings together scientists from many areas of biology and other fields to draw upon advances in genomics, ecology, enhanced information technology, and other fields -- not to mention a robotic cockroach -- to address significant under-studied or unanswered questions in biology.

"FIBR is one of the premier, crosscutting programs in biology at NSF," said Mary Clutter, head of NSF's Biological Sciences directorate. "By undertaking highly innovative and broadly integrative approaches to research in biology, FIBR projects tackle grand challenges and promote the training of a new and fearless generation of scientists willing and able to bridge conventional disciplinary boundaries."

Several of this year's FIBR awards will focus on the relationship between an organism's genes and the outside world. One project will examine how a plant evaluates the various cues of seasonal change so that it blooms when it has the best chance to reproduce successfully. A second project will try to unravel "ecological genomics," identifying the genetic linkages that draw species together into complex communities and whole ecosystems.

Genes and environment both contribute to behavior, and another project will tackle the hotly debated nature or nurture question by analyzing social behavior as it relates to an entire genome -- that of the honey bee.

Scientists now know that up to a quarter of all genes in many organisms are acquired from completely unrelated s
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Contact: David Hart
703-292-7737
National Science Foundation
16-Sep-2004


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