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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 
of birds.

"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 
most ecosystems."

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.

2. Spiders  

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.

3. Archosaurs  

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

ST:  Illinois