The Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) made an award (NSF Award #1746177) in July of 2017 to Dr. Joseph Cook from the University of New Mexico to organize and conduct a workshop entitled, “Research Using Biological Collections”. The purpose of this workshop was to host all awardees from the first two cohorts of the “Research Using Biological Collections” track of the Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) program and provide them with professional development and networking opportunities through the dissemination and mutual sharing of the scientific work they have done under their awards. Dr. Dan Marenda, DBI’s current managing Program Officer of the program attended the NSF Collections-Based PRFB Symposium & Workshop that was held on November 7 – 9, 2017 at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.
The main take-home message from the symposium was:
Collect specimens now!
With the Earth currently going through a time of immense change, many species are displaying adaptations already. The scientific community was encouraged to begin collecting specimens now, so that future scientists can study the effects of rapid change on as many species as possible.
At the conference, many NSF-funded PRFB recipients presented their research and described the fascinating work that they have been doing, including the projects below:
Biological Collections are being utilized to help study epigenetic change!
A 2016 PRFB Fellow found that DNA methylation signatures persist in museum specimens, including ancient ones, which allows a completely unprecedented capability to study the epigenetics effects on gene expression over time. The project focuses on understanding how epigenetic changes in response to environmental change can function as a buffer when species need to expand to colonize a new niche. By using biological collections to detect epigenetic changes, this allows scientists to use collections in an innovative way to expand research areas.
(NSF Award #1612143)
Can you determine the microbiome of specimens in collections? Yes, you can!
A 2015 and 2016 PRFB Fellow is using the preserved gastrointestinal tracts of specimens in collections to assess the microbiome of those animals to assess both microbe and parasite diversity. An analysis on these organisms in two different species of shrews that have recently come into contact, and are now reproducing together, is ongoing. The museum collections will allow for the assessment of how the microbiomes have changed within the two different species over time and make predictions as to whether any changes contribute to speciation.
(NSF Award #1523410)
For future submissions and more information, visit the PRFB program page.