NSF Research Day Vermont EPSCoR Annual State Meeting and Grant Writing Workshop University of Vermont June 6, 2008 Dr. Joann Roskoski Executive Officer Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) Biological Sciences Directorate Vision Inspiring research and education at the frontiers of the life sciences Mission To enable the discoveries for understanding life BIO Support for Basic Research Federal Support for Basic Research in Non-Medical Biological Sciences at Academic Institutions Federal Support for Basic Research in Environmental Biology at Academic Institutions NSF 67% Other federal spending 33% NSF 62% Other federal spending 38% Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) Human Resources Ecological Biology Behavioral Systems Biomolecular Systems Research Resources Ecosystem Science Developmental Systems Cellular Systems Plant Genome Research Program Population and Evolutionary Processes Neural Systems Genes and Genome Systems Systematic Biology and Biodiversity Inventories Physiological and Structural Systems Effective April, 2008 Emerging Frontiers (EF) BIO 2008-2009 Priorities • Life in Transition – Strengthening Core Programs – Origins – Energy – Adaptation • Adaptive Systems Technology • Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment • NEON • The Life Sciences in Transition – Multidisciplinary Programs – New Centers • Plant Science Cyberinfrastructure Collaborative • Center for Research at the Interface of the Mathematical and Biological Sciences • Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology Life in Transition Biology is the narrative of life on Earth and the story of the unexpected… Origins: How, where and when did life on Earth begin? Open system chemistry Self-replication RNA World H2 + CO2 => [ HCO ]n Self-sustaining biochemistry DNA World How did the biological complexity of life emerge from pre-biotic chemistry and geochemistry? Self-contained – The Cell Self-sustaining - Energy Self-replicating – RNA, DNA Basic elements Evolving - Biodiversity Ancestry of Life Horizontal Gene Transfer What we thought we knew: Genetic information flowed from parent to offspring, generation to generation Darwin’s tree of life rooted to a universal common ancestor… Eukaryotes Animals Fungi Plants Bacteria Archaea Algae LUCA ? Sequencing of whole genomes revealed that genetic information has been transferred horizontally between organisms, some distantly related Synthetic Biology What are the indispensable requirements for life? Membrane Encapsulation Are There Alternative Routes to Life? ? Genome Stability New Chemical Theories ? Eric Smith, SFI What are: • The physical rules for cell membrane assembly? • The minimum gene set required to sustain life? • The fundamental requirements for genome stability? • Chemical constraints? Synthetic Biology Theory Computation Modeling Molecular Biology design Evolution testing Engineering Genomics fabrication Physics Synthetic Chemistry Material Science How is energy obtained and used by living systems to sustain life? Au Applied PS I Ag e- e- Photosynthesis ee- Assemble the basics Chloroplasts Barry Bruce (UTN), NSF/EF -/+ Understanding natural energy transduction systems will inspire the development of biologybased technologies capable of delivering sustainable, renewable, efficient energy. Microbial Research to Enhance Our Understanding of Novel Energy Systems Diverse Chemical Sources of Energy for Living Systems: Arsenate (AsO43-) Iron (Fe3+) Manganese (Mn4+) Nitrate (NO3-) Selenate (SeO43-) Sulfate (SO42-) Uranyl oxide (UO22+) Anna-Louise Reysenbach, Portand State Univ. Everett Schock, Washington Univ. St. Louis Adaptation Transformations and Transitions in the Story of Life What will survive, and how? Diversity Changes Understanding life’s resilience and adaptation will reduce uncertainty about the future of life on Earth in response to global climate change: Adaptive Systems Technology Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment NEON Evolving Complexity Sensing the Environment Movement Hydra vulgaris Complex Nervous System Platynereis dumerilii Eurycea lucifuga Adaptive Systems Technology Closing the Loop of Theory, Observation, Experimentation, and Technology Four domains of neuroscience Animal model Mathematical model • The primary source of data and behavioral phenomena • Describes hypothetical relationships between a selected subset of observations Computational model Physical model • Explores the logical consequences of the hypothetical descriptions • Explores the behavioral consequences of a hypothetical neural property operating in the animal’s natural environment D. E. Koditschek, ESE Department, University of Pennsylvania Adaptation: Life in a Time of Planetary Change CO2 CH4 … We are only now beginning to explore the biological drivers of climate change. Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment GOAL: Support research on the resilience that is conferred by the presence of living organisms in freshwater ecological systems. NEON Biosphere, Geosphere, Atmosphere Potter et al. 2003 • Dramatic inter-annual variation is not totally explained by physical factors (temperature, rainfall) • Do biological processes determine/impact this variation? • Which ones, how and how much? • Can knowing life’s impacts on the system improve predictions? Inform carbon trading scenarios? Why Continental Scale Ecology? • Answering continental-scale questions: e.g. Will changing climate increase or decrease the biological carbon uptake or emission of the US and by how much? • Requires measuring the drivers (climate, biological processes, land use change) and the phenomena (CO2 uptake or emission) over multiple spatial and long time scales • As well as conducting controlled experiments to understand the mechanisms involved in observed changes • And • Existing infrastructure is neither optimally configured geographically nor operationally standardized to do this National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Experimental Design and Deployment http://neoninc.org/milestones/2007/neon-deployment-design.html Life Sciences In Transition The Role of Theory in Advancing 21stCentury Biology Catalyzing Transformative Research Transdisciplinary Interdisciplinary Multi-disciplinary Disciplinary National Research Council of the National Academies 2008 Multidisciplianry Programs • Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (BIO, GEO, SBE and USFS) • Ecology of Infectious Disease (BIO, GEO and NIH) • Human and Social Dynamics (all NSF) “Plant Biology Jets Into Cyberspace” - Science Magazine iPlant Collaborative A Look into the Future “Just as Google Earth lets you zoom in on individual buildings from space, researchers may one day be able to toggle between whole-ecosystem views of plants and the molecules that make them up with just a few clicks of the mouse.” -Elizabeth Pennisi Science Magazine (2008) Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (CEIN) • Partnership between multiple NSF Directorates and EPA. • Goal: Support research on the interactions of nanomaterials with organisms, cellular constituents, metabolic networks and living tissues; understand environmental exposure and bioaccumulation and their effects on living systems; and determine the biological impacts of nanomaterials dispersed in the environment. Center for Research at the Interface of the Mathematical and Biological Sciences (CIMBS) • Partnership between BIO and MPS (NSF), DHS and USDA to stimulate research at the interface of the mathematical and biological sciences • Goal: To provide mechanisms to foster synthetic, collaborative, cross-disciplinary studies; enable plant and animal infectious disease modeling; and generate knowledge for policy makers, government agencies, and society.