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Patterson B.D.,Field Museum of Natural History
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2010

To use the 'lessons of the Pleistocene' to forecast the biotic effects of climate change, we must parse the effects of history and ecology in the Quaternary record. The preponderance of Northern Hemisphere studies of biotic responses to climate change provides a limited set of players and environmental circumstances with which to decouple these drivers. In this issue Lessa et al. (2010) examine population structure in 14 species of mice distributed across Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in southern South America. In the Southern Cone, glacial ice was alpine, not polar; major habitats were (and are) oriented N-S, not E-W; and habitable land area actually increased, not decreased, at the height of the last glacial maximum (LGM). Despite these differences, there is evidence for poleward demographic expansion in 10 of the 14 species, and phylogeographic breaks in these are likewise stepped by latitude (and presumably history) rather than by biome. Nevertheless, high latitude endemism and the antiquity of these lineages point to an extended presence in the region that very likely predates the Pleistocene. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Terrell J.E.,Field Museum of Natural History
Annals of Human Genetics | Year: 2010

Social network analysis (SNA) is a body of theory and a set of relatively new computer-aided techniques used in the analysis and study of relational data. Recent studies of autosomal markers from over 40 human populations in the south-western Pacific have further documented the remarkable degree of genetic diversity in this part of the world. I report additional analysis using SNA methods contributing new controlled observations on the structuring of genetic diversity among these islanders. These SNA mappings are then compared with model-based network expectations derived from the geographic distances among the same populations. Previous studies found that genetic divergence among island Melanesian populations is organised by island, island size/topography, and position (coastal vs. inland), and that similarities observed correlate only weakly with an isolation-by-distance model. Using SNA methods, however, improves the resolution of among population comparison, and suggests that isolation by distance constrained by social networks together with position (coastal/inland) accounts for much of the population structuring observed. The multilocus data now available is also in accord with current thinking on the impact of major biogeographical transformations on prehistoric colonisation and post-settlement human interaction in Oceania. © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/University College London.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Dimensions of Biodiversity | Award Amount: 605.06K | Year: 2015

Although individual animals have long been considered a fundamental unit of evolution, we now know that each is really a co-dependent collection of host animal and microbes. This co-dependency reaches from ancient times through to the present day. Many animals depend on gut bacteria to process food and incorporate essential nutrients into the hosts own tissues. To untangle the importance of this partnership for hosts and symbiotic gut bacteria, this project will study a diverse and ecologically important social animal group, the turtle ants. As social organisms, ants and humans share ways for acquiring helpful and harmful bacteria. State-of-the-art molecular and genomic methods will be used to investigate ancient and modern influences on the symbiosis, the function of the bacteria for host health, and the means of passage and maintenance of the bacterial symbionts over millions of years.

Explaining global patterns of biodiversity and their drivers have long been central challenges in the fields of ecology and evolution. Increasingly, it is becoming apparent that biodiversity is itself a function of interactions across different levels of biological organization. Among the metazoans, symbioses with microbes are a defining feature, and individuals are integrated collections of host and symbiont cells, together defining the holobiont. By studying the diverse and tractable turtle ant system, this research will address the relationships between symbiosis and the dimensions of holobiont biodiversity with unprecedented clarity. Specifically, this research will address: 1) the roles of time, biogeography, and habitat in host diversification (host taxonomic dimension); 2) variation in gut communities across host ant phylogeny, geography, habitat, and ecological niches (symbiont taxonomic dimension integrated with host taxonomic and functional dimensions); 3) the extent of codiversification for ~10 core, host-specific symbiont lineages, and the impacts of host phylogeny, geography, and ecology on symbiont transfer (symbiont taxonomic dimension integrated with host taxonomic and functional dimensions); 4) variation in genome evolution and innovation across symbionts with varying degrees of codiversification, and across genes with varying function (taxonomic, genetic, and functional integration of hosts and symbionts); and 5) symbiont function in light of symbiont genome evolution, host-symbiont codiversification, and host phylogeny, geography, and ecology (taxonomic, genetic, and functional integration of hosts and symbionts).

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: RSCH EXPER FOR UNDERGRAD SITES | Award Amount: 244.87K | Year: 2016

This REU Site award to the Field Museum of Natural History, located in Chicago, IL, will support the training of 8 students for 10 weeks, during the summers of 2016-2018. Students will conduct hands-on research in biodiversity science and receive training in cutting-edge techniques and analysis in evolutionary biology through guided mentorship by museum curators and scientists. Students will learn research techniques that include DNA sequencing and computational analysis of genetic and genomic data, morphological measurements and phylogenetic analysis, and microbiology and next-generation microbial sequencing. Scientific projects to be conducted by the students include the evolution of morphological variation in extinct therapsids, tropical bird biogeography, population genetics of sharks, influence of disease on bird genetic diversity in urban environments, quantitative analysis of meteorites, the influence of hydrostatic pressure on morphological diversity in octopuses, and co-diversification of ants and their gut bacterial communities. In addition students will receive career mentoring in a diversity of STEM fields, gain experiences in public outreach and science communication, receive training in ethics/responsible conduct of research, and participate in a diversity workshop to help overcome bias in science. Selection of applicants will be completed by the host curator or scientist and students will be recruited from across the country, leveraging local university connections, to insure participation of underrepresented minorities. Students may apply online through: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/REU.

It is anticipated that a total of 24 students, primarily from schools with limited research opportunities, will be trained in the program. Students will learn how research is conducted and will create a video about their research experience to share in an annual symposium. Students will gain experiences in public outreach and science communication through sharing their research on the public museum areas. In addition, many will present the results of their work at scientific conferences. These internships will provide training for the next generation of evolutionary biologists in collections-based organismal bioscience.

A common web-based assessment tool used by all REU programs funded by the Division of Biological Infrastructure (Directorate for Biological Sciences) will be used to determine the effectiveness of the training program. Students will be tracked after the program in order to determine their career paths. Students will be asked to respond to an automatic email sent via the NSF reporting system. More information about the program is available by visiting https://www.fieldmuseum.org/REU, or by contacting the PI (Dr. Corrie Moreau at cmoreau@fieldmuseum.org) or the co-PI (Dr. Thorsten Lumbsch at tlumbsch@fieldmuseum.org).

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH COLLECTION | Award Amount: 208.64K | Year: 2015

Natural history specimen collections in museums and academic institutions document species diversity and provide essential information for broad applications ranging from conservation, securing national resources, discovery of new species, to agriculture and medicine. Collections are also an important resource for education and outreach. The Field Museum herbarium houses almost 3 million dried plant and fungi specimens. In 2013, the Museum acquired 35,000 liverwort specimens from the private herbarium of one of the most preeminent botanists of the 20th century. Liverworts are a small group of land plants that are closely related to the more familiar mosses. They play a critical role in our understanding of plant evolution and are ecologically significant. This recent acquisition makes The Field Museum liverwort collection, of over 220,000 specimens, the largest collection in the US and among the top four in the world. The recently acquired liverwort collection is in critical need of curation because of its poor condition. There is vital type material, used to describe and name new species, requiring urgent attention. This project will ensure the preservation of this collection as a national resource for future generations. The project also engages teens in understanding the role collections play in furthering scientific discovery. Families, students, and the general public can also participate as Citizen Scientists and help discover biodiversity by visiting http://microplants.fieldmuseum.org. The project has strong training, outreach and educational components that will improve science instruction and student learning, leveraging museum resources.

The principal objective is to curate the recently acquired private herbarium of an estimated 35,000 liverwort (Marchantiophyta) specimens of the late Prof. Rudolf M. Schuster, one of the most preeminent bryologists in the history of the discipline. The current condition of this collection, ranging from specimens in original newspaper and brown paper bags to original collecting packets, necessitates extensive curation. The bryology research community has been waiting decades to access this important collection in its entirety as many significant specimens remained in private residence and were not made available. There is vital type material that requires urgent attention. The principal objectives include curating, barcoding, databasing and imaging all label data and selected specimens. The timing of these collection improvement activities will leverage and is synergistic with national digitization efforts and international research programs. The digitization effort will provide digital access to this collection, unlock new distribution records and new species to science, and contribute to international databasing activities such as GBIF, The Plant List, and EOL. All data resulting from this project will be shared with iDigBio (https://www.idigbio.org/), ensuring accessibility to researchers and educators. Duplicate specimen material will be distributed to countries of origin that would provide valuable reference material, mainly from under-resourced yet biodiversity rich regions.

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