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UCR-led research team receives $5 million grant to study interaction of ecology and evolution

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- An interdisciplinary team of researchers led by David Reznick, an evolutionary biologist at UC Riverside, has been awarded $5 million over five years by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct an experimental study on how ecology a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of an organism and its environment and evolution interact. The findings of the study are expected to help explain how environmental changes influence an organism's evolution as well as how the evolving organism, in turn, changes the ecosystem in which it is embedded.

Reznick, a professor of biology and the principal investigator of the grant from NSF's Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) program, in collaboration with colleagues specializing in molecular biology, population ecology, ecosystems science, biogeochemistry and applied mathematics, will perform the study of evolution/ecology interactions in natural stream communities on the island of Trinidad.

Specifically, the team will focus on guppies small fresh-water fish biologists have studied for long that coexist in the stream with Hart's killifish, a predator. The team will examine not only what causes the guppies to evolve as they might but also the co-evolution of the killifish.

"We know the fish are evolving, but the ecosystem they find themselves in is also changing," Reznick said. "It is popularly thought that evolution is so much slower than ecology that the two can be thought of as independent, but our results for guppies and those for other organisms show that evolution can be so fast that it happens on time scales that are similar to ecological interactions. If this is true, then changes in the ecosystem, such as the availability of resources or how many predators there are or the cycling of essential nutrients, can exert new evolutionary pressures on the guppies at the
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
6-Oct-2006


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