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NSF to Grant $12M in 2010 for Tree of Life Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation plans to give $12 million next year to fund its Assembling the Tree of Life program, which aims to increase and assemble knowledge about life on earth, including genomic and taxonomic information.

The grant program will support between three and six awards next year with up to $3 million for durations of up to five years. The aim is to use various methods and approaches to assemble the map of the 1.7 million species that have been identified.

The AToL effort has five major goals: increasing the numbers of taxa and data sets in order to resolve phylogenetic relationships among major taxonomic groups (including phyla and kingdoms); focusing on major groups of prokaryotes, protists, protostomes, and viruses; developing R&D tools for computational phylogenetics and phyloinformatics; integrating all the major taxonomic groups to produce the phylogenetic framework for the Tree of Life; and conducting outreach and education in comparative phylogenetic biology and paleontology, and emphasizing new training activities, information science education, and internet resources and dissemination.

Some of the studies may be taxonomy-oriented and others may be theory-oriented.

The theory-oriented projects should address research computational phylogenetics and phyloinformatics and focus on alignment and analysis of gene order, such as genomic or morphological data, molecular clock estimates, integrating fossil evidence, and others.

The taxonomic projects should address the broad taxonomic scope of research and comprehensive plans for sampling and data collection.