Robert Wallace, professor of biology at Ripon College, and colleagues at the University of Texas-El Paso and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell have been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The award will be over four years and will be used to study rotifers. Wallace’s component will be $25,000 per year for a total of $100,000.
Rotifers make up a phylum of microscopic and near-microscopic pseudocoelomate animals. They are important members of freshwater communities because of their roles in energy and nutrient cycling. They also are vital to understanding animal evolution, including evolution of sex and parasitism, and are important models for aging and toxicology studies.
This collaborative effort will integrate genetics, life history and morphology to understand the diversification of an enigmatic metazoan lineage. It will provide a framework for addressing potential new avenues of research, as well as describe new species, identify new cryptic species complexes, re-describe problematic taxa, and help stabilize classification of the phylum.
The project will advance the infrastructure of scientific training by training graduate and undergraduate students in taxonomic and phylogenetic principles. At Ripon, Wallace will train four undergraduate students in light microscopy, taxonomy and aquatic ecology, with at least one or two of these students being McNair Scholars.
Undergraduate laboratory modules, a museum exhibit and scientific workshops will disseminate the results. Public access will be promoted by linking to existing internet-based resources such as the Encyclopedia of Life.
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