BII-Implementation: The causes and consequences of plant biodiversity across scales in a rapidly changing world
Research Ideas and Outcomes
The proposed Biology Integration Institute will bring together two major research institutions in the Upper Midwest—the University of Minnesota (UMN) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW)—to investigate the causes and consequences of plant biodiversity across scales in a rapidly changing world—from genes and molecules within cells and tissues to communities, ecosystems, landscapes and the biosphere. The Institute focuses on plant biodiversity, defined broadly to encompass the heterogeneity
... thin life that occurs from the smallest to the largest biological scales. A premise of the Institute is that life is envisioned as occurring at different scales nested within several contrasting conceptions of biological hierarchies, defined by the separate but related fields of physiology, evolutionary biology and ecology. The Institute will emphasize the use of 'spectral biology'—detection of biological properties based on the interaction of light energy with matter—and process-oriented predictive models to investigate the processes by which biological components at one scale give rise to emergent properties at higher scales. Through an iterative process that harnesses cutting edge technologies to observe a suite of carefully designed empirical systems—including the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and some of the world's longest running and state-of-the-art global change experiments—the Institute will advance biological understanding and theory of the causes and consequences of changes in biodiversity and at the interface of plant physiology, ecology and evolution. INTELLECTUAL MERIT The Institute brings together a diverse, gender-balanced and highly productive team with significant leadership experience that spans biological disciplines and career stages and is poised to integrate biology in new ways. Together, the team will harness the potential of spectral biology, experiments, observations and synthetic modeling in a manner never before possible to transform understanding of how variation within and among biological scales drives plant and ecosystem responses to global change over diurnal, seasonal and millennial time scales. In doing so, it will use and advance state-of-the-art theory. The institute team posits that the designed projects will unearth transformative understanding and biological rules at each of the various scales that will enable an unprecedented capacity to discern the linkages between physiological, ecological and evolutionary processes in relation to the multi-dimensional nature of biodiversity in this time of massive planetary change. A strength of the proposed Institute is that it leverages prior federal investments in research and formalizes partnerships with foreign institutions heavily invested in related biodiversity research. Most of the planned projects leverage existing research initiatives, infrastructure, working groups, experiments, training programs, and public outreach infrastructure, all of which are already highly synergistic and collaborative, and will bring together members of the overall research and training team. BROADER IMPACTS A central goal of the proposed Institute is to train the next generation of diverse integrative biologists. Post-doctoral, graduate student and undergraduate trainees, recruited from non-traditional and underrepresented groups, including through formal engagement with Native American communities, will receive a range of mentoring and training opportunities. Annual summer training workshops will be offered at UMN and UW as well as training experiences with the Global Change and Biodiversity Research Priority Program (URPP-GCB) at the University of Zurich (UZH) and through the Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory (CABO). The Institute will engage diverse K-12 audiences, the general public and Native American communities through Market Science modules, Minute Earth videos, a museum exhibit and public engagement and educational activities through the Bell Museum of Natural History, the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) and the Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Association.