Science Market Update

2 Boulder Biology Research Scientists Win NSF Early Career Award Funding

Posted by Jaimee Saliba on Tue, Feb 28, 2012

The National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program has just announced the 2012 winners of its prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who are exceptional both as teachers and researchers.  The University of Colorado Boulder boasts two winners this year from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology deparment (EBIO).  Together their awards bring over $1.5M in new funding to their research on amphibian and avian biology. The laboratory aspects of Drs. Safran and Johnson's research involve genetics, stable-isotope analysis, and the study of microscopic disease-causing parasites. 

Dr. Rebecca Safran was awarded $850,000 over five years to continue her genetic study of barn swallow populations in the Northern Hemisphere.  She received her first 4-year NSF grant in 2007, two years after receiving her PhD from Cornell.  Her work has received widespread media attention, including a recent series produced by PBS Nature and multiple national and international television, radio, and news spots, such as this CNN piece on barn swallow color.

Safran's barn swallow study will involve contributions from 35 international collaborators to allow for strong comparative (and interdisciplinary) analyses. Her research also benefits from a Citizen Science program that encourages what used to be called amateur naturalists to contribute data they encounter in their wanderings.  The advent of smartphones with GPS technology and the ability to transmit data and images directly to a lab's computer makes this kind of public data collection increasingly valuable.  A popular citizen science event that we've reported on in a previous blog is the 24-hour BioBlitz species inventory marathon, where participants try to find and identify as many varieties of plant, animal, and bug as they can in a specified area. 

Dr. Pieter Johnson has been awarded $700,000 for his NSF CAREER study of the factors that control disease in natural ecosystems, particularly the role of parasites in ecosystem processes.  His research is focused on the trematode parasite, which has contributed to the devastation of the amphibian population by causing limb malformations that are clearly visible without a microscope (see above photo).  Johnson's study also involves a Citizen Science program where non-specialists who come across the diseased amphibians are encouraged to add their observation data to the study.  The National Geographic is a collaborator (and funding partner) in this public-outreach/crowdsourcing research and education project. Johnson's team is also working with other organizations to develop a documentary to promote awareness of the threat to amphibians, and is teaming up with a biology textbook publisher to design an educational module.

Johnson was the winner of a Packard Fellowship in 2008 that included $875,000 to pursue his research.  He also has an NSF grant from 2009 that continues through 2013.

Additional Boulder biology research within EBIO to receive 2012 NSF funding includes:

  • The Medeiros lab secured double grants from the NSF and NIH, valued at nearly $400K and starting in April 2012.
  • Professor Valerie McKenzie received a $400K NSF award starting March 1st.

Other notable 2012 NSF awardees for life science research at CU-Boulder include:

  • Detlev Helmig, a chemist with the Atmospheric Research Laboratory ($580K, Feb. 15)
  • Robert Batey, a biochemist and professor in the Molecular Biophysics program ($400K, Feb. 1)

boulder research funding

[The Boulder campus in winter, courtesy of CU-Boulder]

Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will hold its 14th annual Boulder BioResearch Product Faire event on June 13, 2012 at the University of Colorado campus.  Each year we bring together  researchers in the Boulder life science community with top laboratory equipment and service providers to discuss the latest developments in lab technology.  For information on this well-attended product show and networking event, click the button below:

boulder research

We also invite you to view our complete 2012 Show Schedule and call to talk with one of our friendly, knowlegeable sales associates.


Tags: crowdsourcing, women in science, evolution research, Southwest, 2012, biology research, biology research scientists, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Funding, Research Funding, Ecology, CO, NSF, Boulder, UCO, citizen science, University of Colorato

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