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National Science Foundation announces $14M planetary biodiversity inventory awards

Arlington, Va.-The National Science Foundation (NSF), in cooperation with the ALL Species Foundation, has announced an important new strategy to discover, describe and classify Earth's species. By some estimates as many as 90 percent of living species are unknown to science, and traditional approaches to discover them are unacceptably slow, scientists say. International teams of scientists are focusing existing expertise and collections on coordinating and prioritizing field, laboratory and museum studies to rapidly expand knowledge of species diversity in habitats all over the planet. New species will be described, phylogenetic relationships analyzed, and ALL Species classified based on fossil, morphological and molecular evidence.

These inventories are on an unprecedented scale and the first to be framed by phylogeny rather than place. "They have the potential to transform how biodiversity exploration is done and will train a new generation of experts, complement existing research programs and make thousands of species newly available for scientific study," said Quentin Wheeler, director of NSF's division of environmental biology, which funds the initiative under the name Planetary Biodiversity Inventory (PBI).

The first PBI awardees are:

Lynn Bohs at the University of Utah, is heading a team to classify plants in the genus Solanum, which includes major crops such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants, as well as numerous lesser-known crops of tropical and subtropical regions, sources of pharmaceutical agents, and poisonous weeds like deadly nightshade. With an estimated 1500 species worldwide, Solanum is the focus of large-scale genomics projects and the genus provides model systems to study plant breeding, pollination biology and fruit dispersal.

Larry Page of the Florida Museum of Natural History and colleagues will inventory and describe the world's catfishes. Catfishes are extremely diverse, ecologically significant
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
23-Sep-2003


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