K-State receives more than $780,000 to fund graduate students studying ecology, evolution, genomics

October 20, 2009

The U.S. Department of Education's Graduate Assistance in Area of National Need program has awarded the Division of Biology at Kansas State University $783,000 to support a new graduate fellowship training program in ecology, evolution and genomics of changing environments for the next three years.

An additional 25 percent match of $196,000 will be split between the Division of Biology and K-State's office of research and sponsored programs, increasing the funding for the program to $979,000. It will include sponsorships of stipends, research expenses and tuition for seven graduate fellows. The scholars will focus on integrative learning and training across the disciplines of ecology, evolution and genomics to address the challenges of the 21st century, such as how organisms adapt to fast-paced and different environmental change.

"As environments change globally at a fast pace and in novel dimensions, we must react to critical problems with comprehensive and innovative solutions," said Michael Herman, K-State associate professor of genetics.

Students in the program will be exposed to concepts and skills transferable to a variety of ecosystems across the biological hierarchy and meld approaches from multiple scales and techniques. Many disciplines and how those areas interact will be covered, including everything from genes and genomes that vary with natural selection and the adaptations in form and function of organisms, to the critical role that an organism plays in communities and ecosystems.

"Recruitment of the new cohort of students is under way with admission planned for fall 2010," said Loretta Johnson, K-State associate professor of biology. Students interested in applying should visit the Web site at http://www.k-state.edu/eeg

In addition to teaching students the latest research techniques and teaching methods, the program also seeks to increase the number of graduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in these research areas and fosters the development of skills to effectively communicate biological science issues to the public.

The training program also will use the resources of K-State's Ecological Genomics Institute, Institute for Grassland Studies and the Konza Prairie Long Term Ecological Research program to develop an interdisciplinary breadth and depth of scientific expertise that is required of the next generation to meet the environmental challenges of a rapidly changing planet, in addition to linking complementary disciplines of ecology, evolution and genomics to existing areas of strength within the Division of Biology.

Principal investigators on the award include Johnson; Herman; Anthony Joern, professor of community ecology; and Brett Sandercock, associate professor of avian ecology. Twelve additional faculty are involved as mentors for the new students. Student applications for fall 2010 admission are due Dec. 15.
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Kansas State University

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