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NSF awards $31.9 million in grants to study biocomplexity in the environment

To better understand the interrelationships among living things from molecular structures to genes to ecosystems--and how they interact with their environment--the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $31.9 million in 30 research grants to scientists and engineers across the country.

"These investigations will provide a more complete understanding of natural processes and cycles, of human behaviors and decisions in the natural world, and of ways to use new technology effectively to observe the environment and sustain the diversity of life on Earth," said Rita Colwell, director of NSF. "By placing biocomplexity studies in an environmental context, this effort emphasizes research on developing the people, tools and ideas necessary to understand these ribbons of interconnections, which are often difficult to tease apart."

Research on Biocomplexity in the Environment, said Colwell, will shed light on connections that are not necessarily straightforward or easily discerned, but that are critically important to the future of life on our planet. "Breakthroughs in particle physics and genetics, advances in computational science, information technology and microsensors, are creating global momentum for new ideas and tools," said Colwell. "The sum of these dynamic influences has given us the means to begin charting a comprehensive view of life, matter and the environment at all scales of time and place."

A systems approach is the cornerstone of biocomplexity studies, Colwell believes. Scientists and engineers must work in teams across diverse fields that go well beyond biology to include physics, engineering, economics, geochemistry and others, on studies that extend from submolecules to mass changes in climate with potential for worldwide impact. "We have powerful new technologies and tools that now make biocomplexity research possible," said Colwell. "The biggest, most exciting scientific questions are at the interfaces of disciplines,
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
14-Oct-2003


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