Grant: $120,777 - National Science Foundation - Aug. 11, 2009
0% voted satisfied - 100% voted not satisfied - 3 vote(s) cast
Award Description: Habitat degradation and loss may represent the most critical threats to biological diversity. While ecological effects of human activities at the ecosystem and community levels have received considerable scientific interest, evolutionary impacts of human-induced environmental changes have only very recently attracted significant attention. What are the evolutionary consequences for species experiencing severe anthropogenic habitat modification? Today, evolutionary ecologists can offer very little to answer this question—this proposal will initiate a research program filling this void. The proposal combines field surveys, morphological/physiological analyses, whole-organism performance trials, laboratory rearing experiments, and molecular work to examine whether ecosystem fragmentation drives predictable and rapid evolution of morphology and swimming performance in an endemic livebearing fish. Fragmentation of estuaries is common in coastal ecosystems, and can have numerous severe impacts. Estuary fragmentation in the Bahamas presents a remarkable opportunity to investigate the evolutionary impacts of anthropogenic habitat modification. In the Bahamas, fragmentation of tidal creeks typically results from roads constructed across a creek, greatly reducing hydrologic connectivity. The rapid and dramatic changes in biotic and abiotic characteristics following tidal creek fragmentation is predicted to generate substantially different selection pressures for organisms inhabiting the system than were naturally present before anthropogenic impacts. This proposal will develop and test a priori predictions of phenotypic differentiation based on explicit hypotheses of divergent natural selection between fragmentation regimes. The project specifically investigates the evolutionary impacts of human-induced tidal creek fragmentation for small endemic, livebearing fishes, Bahamas Gambusia. The work will determine the relative influence of natural selection in driving predictable phenotypic outcomes, the role of history (clade and island effects) in yielding unpredictable phenotypic variation, and the importance of gene flow in constraining phenotypic divergence (and the reverse causation of divergent selection constraining gene flow). Because organisms might respond to divergent natural selection across heterogeneous environments through the evolution of either phenotypic plasticity (environmentally-contingent phenotype production) or fixed genetic differences (genetic divergence in environmentally-insensitive phenotypes), the relative contributions of these sources to observed differences between Gambusia populations will be assessed using laboratory-rearing experiments. Results of the proposed work will provide a better understanding of the breadth of evolutionary consequences that human activities might induce.
Project Description: The PIs have a strong history of generating broader impacts with their research, and the current proposal is designed to maximize these impacts by direct integration of science and education. The work will provide training for at least 7 undergraduate students (encouraging participation of underrepresented groups), and involve extensive interaction in local school systems (domestic and in the Bahamas). Bahamian students will be extensively integrated into field collections and other associated learning experiences. An important component of this work is the development of a Bahamian high-school outreach program, 'Everyday Evolution. This educational module is designed to teach the fundamentals of ecology and evolution to high-school students through hands-on experience and semester-long classroom experiments. After testing in Abaco schools, the module will be distributed at a national level for use in teaching training workshops. Products of the research will be broadly disseminated through scientific meetings, publications, as well as public presentations. At a time when an understanding of evolution is low for the general public in both the U.S. and the Bahamas, there is no better time to demonstrate how natural processes can lead to rapid evolution, and well as to how evolutionary biologists rigorously test well-articulated hypotheses. The award was set up at FIU on September 9, so I am in the preliminary stages of the proposed work:-Hired a post-doctoral researcher, who will carry out many of the proposed activities. He has been in the lab since March and has conducted extensive preliminary analyses-Hired and trained a lab technician who will be conducting stable isotope, RNA/DNA and genetic analysis-Made two visits to Abaco to chose primary research sites-Made extensive collections of the focal organism, Gambusia hubbsi, with which we have developed protocols for diet analyses and taking digital images-Started developing our long-term digital image database.
Jobs Summary: 00 (Total jobs reported: 0)
Project Status: Less Than 50% Completed
This award's data was last updated on Aug. 11, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.