New science at K-State attracts $4.2 million from National Science Foundation

Science Foundation, through the life science initiative of the Kansas National Science Foundation EPSCoR, has awarded $3 million for a project that will link ecology and genomics for the first time.

No one could have undertaken ecological genomics studies even five years ago, say the lead investigators Mike Herman and Loretta Johnson, of Kansas State University's Division of Biology.

"The recent explosion of knowledge in the field of genomics made this project feasible now," Herman said. "Scientists have determined the entire gene sequence of several organisms -- including the model systems we will use -- in order to understand the biological function of genes."

Twenty-eight scientists from nine departments, 10 postgraduate students, 10 graduate students and a group of undergraduates will join the experiments as the three-year National Science Foundation study unfolds. Workshops, training seminars and additional research projects will be integral aspects of the EPSCoR program.

One of the greatest challenges for biologists today is to understand how organisms respond to environmental changes that are caused increasingly by human activities.

The primary goal of the National Science Foundation-initiative will be to identify genes that are directly involved in how plants and animals respond to this changing environment. The initiative will focus on global environmental changes that are important to grasslands in Kansas: the amount and timing of precipitation, increased nitrogen, and changes in temperature.

Ecological genomics will couple the tools of molecular genetics with ecology by taking advantage of the research platform and ongoing experimental work at the Konza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan. Konza represents the tallgrass prairie in the National Science Foundation's network of long-term ecological research study sites around the globe.

Johnson said Konza ecologists already investigate a ran

Contact: Mike Herman
Kansas State University

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