Robert L. Wallace receives four-year research grant from NSF

Robert Wallace

Robert L. Wallace, professor emeritus of biology and the former Patricia and Philip McCullough 1969 Professor in Biology has received a four-year research grant from the National Science Foundation of more than $100,000 to study aspects of the ecology and evolution of rotifers.

This research is a collaborative effort with colleagues from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the University of Texas El Paso. Those institutions have received their own support for the project.

The research will focus on the life cycles and reproduction processes of phylum Rotifera, typically called rotifers. These are tiny, aquatic invertebrates that are found anywhere liquid water is present for even a few days. While some inhabit near-shore marine waters, they are more commonly found in inland waters, including lakes, ponds, streams, ephemeral basins in deserts, irrigation ditches and water-filled tire tracks, and the water film of soils and plants.

Both Green Lake and Gothic Mill Pond are home to several species.

Rotifers play vital roles as consumers (feeding on bacteria and algae), scavengers (consuming decaying plant and animal remains), and predators (feeding on protozoans and other rotifers). However, eventually most individuals fall prey to insects and fish, thus their energy and nutrients pass up the food chain.

There is currently no clear understanding of the origins of the diversity of their life cycles, which hinders understanding of its significance in different environments and its importance in the evolution of different groups of rotifers. The funding from this grant will allow Wallace and his colleagues do research that will help clarify origins of this diversity through intensive study of many species from diverse habitats.

The project is a collaborative effort of U.S. scientists and international experts who will develop educational workshops and museum displays, and train undergraduate and graduate students to understand relationships among rotifer species and how their reproductive strategies have evolved, and to confidently work alongside established scientists.

They also will advise a postdoctoral scientist who will work alongside graduate students to prepare a national symposium on the evolution of invertebrate reproduction. The results of the project will be made available through internet-accessible databases, national meetings, including symposia, workshops, and museum displays, as well as through standard scientific publications.

Wallace frequently publishes research work in books and journal articles. Along with a colleague, Hendrik Segers, Wallce named a genus of rotifer: Conochilopsis, Also, a species of rotifer was named after him: Floscularia wallacei.