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August 9, 2013

OU biologist observes evolution with $229,267 National Science Foundation grant

NORMAN — To understand how organisms adapt to changing environments, a University of Oklahoma biologist will observe the evolutionary consequences of change in a natural population. Results from the $229,267 National Science Foundation grant can foster better forecasting models of global environmental change and inform effective management of natural resources, such as water quality.

Lawrence Weider, co-principal investigator and professor of biology in the OU College of Arts and Sciences, will use a model organism, Daphnia, a small crustacean that lives in lakes and produces eggs that can lay dormant in sediments for centuries, to examine how organisms can adapt and evolve to changes in key environmental parameters, such as nutrient enrichment that affect water quality.

Weider will collaborate with Oklahoma State University zoology professor Punidan D. Jeyasingh and a Minnesota researcher to examine lake-bottom sediments in several Minnesota lakes that have undergone considerable environmental change and reconstruct environments that reflect pre- and post-European settlement.

The information will be used to test the performance of ancient and present-day genotypes in the Daphnia populations to assess human impacts on the environment. The genomic information generated from the experiments will be made available to the scientific community.

Because the results of this study are relevant to water quality and environmental change, the data will be shared with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for outreach to lake managers and the public. In association with the Science Museum of Minnesota, the project will be part of the NSF-sponsored award-winning site, science

buzz.org, which includes on-line exhibits that blend up-to-the minute science news with traditional museum interactive experiences.

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