|UND Biology faculty receive NSF grants totaling $2.1 million|
Three faculty members in the Department of Biology the recently received major research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). All three grants explore how genes and the environment interact to control biological processes and have significant undergraduate and graduate training initiatives associated with them.
Dane Crossley, assistant professor of biology, received a prestigious five year, $1,015,600 career award titled “Maturation of Cardiovascular Physiology in Reptiles.”
Reptiles lack parental care following egg laying and their eggshells are highly permeable. Consequently, they are susceptible to moisture and oxygen stresses in their surrounding environment during development. Crossley’s overall goal is to understand the effects of environmental stresses and genes on the development of the circulatory system in vertebrates, from the embryonic to the adult phase.
To investigate this problem, he combines approaches that measure cardiovascular physiology during development with measurement of gene expression accompanying physiological maturation. His work with reptiles will hopefully provide insights as to how environmental and genetic factors interact during development to influence the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases of all vertebrates, including in humans.
Steven Ralph, assistant professor of biology, received a three year $677,356 grant titled “Genomic Approaches to Identify Insect Resistance Genes in Poplar Trees.”
As sedentary organisms, plants cannot avoid or escape attack by insects or pathogens. Instead, plants have evolved an enormous diversity of anatomical structures and chemical defenses to protect themselves that are tightly regulated at the genetic level.
This collaborative research effort between UND, North Dakota State University, and the University of Florida will elucidate genetic mechanisms underlying insect resistance in perennial plants, including poplar trees. Knowledge concerning the genes and biochemical pathways that enhance insect resistance will be incorporated into existing tree breeding programs for better forest health and enhanced bio fuel production.
Turk Rhen, associate professor of biology, received a three year $467,847 grant titled “Genetic and Genomic Analysis of Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination.”
Rhen’s long-term goal is to discover how embryos in animals become male or female. Temperature determines sex in some fish and amphibians, several lizards, numerous turtles, and all alligators and crocodiles. The specific goal of Rhen’s research is to discover the genetic basis of temperature-dependent sex determination in the common snapping turtle.
This work will provide new insight into the effects of climate (temperature) change on a key attribute of animal reproduction (gender) and a deeper understanding of sex determination in all vertebrates, including humans.
-- Juan Pedraza, Writer/Editor, University Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 777-6571