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NSF Tree of Life Project
Here is the press release:
NSF Launches Ambitious Project to Map Tree of Life; Field Museum Plays Key
CHICAGO, Oct. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Science Foundation has just
launched a multi-disciplinary, 15-20 year program to map the Tree of Life.
Field Museum scientists will help lead three grants to construct a new
framework for understanding the evolutionary relationships between all
species. They will focus on birds, spiders, and archosaurs (birds,
dinosaurs, pterosaurs and crocodiles).
Darwin's vision of a grand Tree of Life "with its ever-branching and
beautiful ramifications" speculated that all life forms are genetically
related in a vast evolutionary tree. Today, many branches of the Tree of Life
remain unanalyzed, unknown. The Assembling the Tree of Life project will
address this, incorporating the flood of new information from genetic
studies, fieldwork and inventories of the earth's biota with existing
Evolutionary information has helped scientists focus research; track the
spread of diseases; develop medicines and agrochemical products; conserve
species; control invasive species; and restore ecosystems.
"Progress in research in many fields is being encumbered by the lack of a
rigorous framework of evolutionary relationships," says Shannon Hackett,
Field Museum assistant curator and AToL investigator. "The tools are now
available to resolve most branches of the Tree of Life."
Field Museum projects
1. Early Bird
Early Bird will determine the evolutionary relationships among major groups
"The impact of this project on science and society will be far reaching,"
Hackett says. "Birds are among the most prominent and engaging creatures in
Partners: Australian Natural Wildlife Collection, Louisiana State University,
Museum Victoria (Melbourne), Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,
University of Florida, University of Glasgow, Wayne State University.
This project will produce a map of the deepest branches of evolutionary
relationships between spiders by combining a massive amount of newly
generated comparative genomic data with new and re-assessed data on
morphology and behavior.
Partners: American Museum of Natural History, George Washington University,
Smithsonian National Natural History Museum and other institutions in the
Americas, Denmark, Spain, Argentina.
This project will attempt to uncover the evolutionary patterns among
archosaurs, focusing on theropods. Archosaurs vary tremendously, from marine
crocodiles to bipedal, flying birds.
Partners include American Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum, George
Washington University, Royal Ontario Museum, University of California
Riverside, University of Iowa.
SOURCE Field Museum
CO: Field Museum; National Science Foundation