These questions are among those to be pursued by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) new Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) program, which today announced its first six five-year projects. Totaling $30 million, they employ boldly creative approaches, integrate a variety of disciplines, and draw expertise from a variety of institutions to address grand challenges.
The FIBR projects also draw upon recent breakthroughs in biology, such as genomics, enhanced information technology, high-throughput instrumentation, imaging and wireless technologies, sophisticated sensors, improved geographic information systems and other advances of the past decade.
"An important feature of biology in the 21st century is the opportunity to set aside barriers and tackle some of the most important and fundamental questions in biology," said Mary Clutter, NSF's Assistant Director for Biology. "FIBR is one of the ways we're supporting researchers who are moving the frontiers forward and who are training a new generation of scientists who will not be limited by disciplinary boundaries"
To approach such big questions, NSF's new FIBR program sets its sights on some very small organisms.
For example, one project titled "The Evolution of Biological Social Systems" will examine the reproduction of a slime mold, particularly why some individual cells in this community of amoebas give up their chance to reproduce so they can support the chances of others. Another, exploring how ecology and molecular genetics interact in the creation of new species, will focus on Mimulus, a genus more commonly known as monkey-flowers.
One will examine the causes and consequences of genetic recombination in reproduction or, succinctly, "Why sex?" by tracking generations of Daphnia, tiny f
Contact: Sean Kearns
National Science Foundation