Competitive Area 2. Postdoctoral Research Fellowships Using Biological Collections.
Biological research collections represent the documented scientific history of life on Earth, and the U.S. museum community alone curates over a billion specimens ranging from bacteria to plants, insects and vertebrates, as well as fossils. Across the globe, collections represent critical infrastructure and support essential research activities in biology and its related fields. Scientists, government agencies, industry and citizens utilize collections to document and understand evolution and biodiversity, study global change, formulate advice on conservation planning, educate the general public, improve interactions between sciences, and devise new practical applications from science to every day life. New technologies supported by NSF in digitization, such as the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) program, are making collections and their associated data, whether they are physical specimens, text, images, sounds, or data tables, searchable in online databases. Despite this clear progress in improving access to physical specimens and their associated metadata, collections remain under-utilized for answering contemporary questions about fundamental aspects of biological processes. Thus, collections are poised to become a critical resource for developing transformative approaches to address key questions in biology and potentially develop applications that extend biology to physical, mathematical, engineering and social sciences. This postdoctoral track seeks transformative approaches that use biological collections in highly innovative ways to address grand challenges in biology. Priority may be given to applicants who integrate biological collections and associated resources with other types of data in an effort to forge new insight into areas traditionally funded by BIO. Examples of key questions in biology of interest include, but are not limited to, links between genotype and phenotype, evolutionary developmental biology, comparative approaches in functional and developmental neurobiology, and the biophysics of nanostructures. Using collections as a resource for grand challenge questions in biology is expected to present new opportunities to advance understanding of biological processes and systems, inspiring new discoveries in areas with relevance to other disciplines with overlapping interests in biological systems. Applicants must document access to the selected collection(s) in the research and training plan.