‘Grand Challenges’ of Biodiversity of Ciliates
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‘Grand Challenges’ of Biodiversity of Ciliates. What are ‘Grand Challenges’. ‘Grand challenges’ are a time-honored way for scientists to organize, focus, and direct large-scale research efforts.

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‘Grand challenges’ are a time-honored way for scientists to organize, focus, and direct large-scale research efforts.

Since the beginning of modern science, Grand Challenges have been the most effective drivers of research.

  • Examples: to organize, focus, and direct large-scale research efforts.

    • development of technology for investigating the natural world (telescope, microscope, accurate laboratory instruments, histological and cytological techniques, specialized equipment for field sampling—ongoing today)

    • description and cataloging of the diversity of living organisms (‘golden age of taxonomy and exploration’ in the 16th–19th centuries—ongoing today)

    • explanation of organismic diversity (evolutionary theory)

    • explanation of structure and function of organisms (physiology, genetics, biochemistry)

    • understanding and overcoming disease (biomedicine, microbiology)

    • and many more

Scientific societies and other research-oriented groups have become fragmented or unfocused in the past several decades.

Grand Challenges are inherently become fragmented or unfocused in the past several decades.integrative in approach because they address large-scale problems.

Grand Challenges can be used to promote investigation of large-scale questions, such as global climate change, that require an integrative approach.

Grand Challenges are a way for groups of researchers (e.g., entire disciplines, scientific societies) that aspire to be integrative in nature to energize themselves and rediscover integrative approaches to scientific questions.

Identifying and using Grand Challenges can maximize the effectiveness of research efforts and build more productive interactions with funding agencies.

Grand Challenges help funding agencies identify and support creative, integrative proposals for research on large-scale problems.

  • A notable success story is the Grand Challenges in Organismic Biology program begun by the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology in 2009.

    • In just 3 years, this initiative has inspired an impressive number of symposia, workshops, and grant proposals.

    • Two divisions of NSF (Environmental Biology, Integrative Organismic Systems) have been enthusiastic supporters and participants in this effort.

The GCOB are large-scale scientific challenges that emphasize organismal biology and interdisciplinary cooperation and creativity.

A list of GCOB was developed in 2009 by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) and, since then, has generated new research initiatives and increased interest and cooperation from NSF.

Information about GCOB and links to key papers are available on the SICB website at http://grandchallengesinbio.org/.

  • The primary mission of the IRCN-BC is promoting multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus.

  • It follows from this that a major objective of the IRCN-BC is to identify specific GCBC that address concerns of protistologists and provide a specific stimulus for generating collaborations and proposals

    • This will allow us to quickly help focus research in key areas of protistan biodiversity.

    • The IRCN-BC is uniquely poised among protistologists to take the lead in this area.

  • Proposed Grand Challenges of Biodiversity of Ciliates multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus.

  • The following list of Grand Challenges is the outcome of presentations and discussions that were part of the first workshop held by the IRCN–BC at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and North Carolina Central University from September 20–22, 2012.

  • There are two categories of challenges;

  • theoretical questions

  • development of resources that are critical to the discipline of ciliate/protistan biodiversity.

  • Preface multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus.

  • Ciliates have distinctive features that allow them to be used as unique models for addressing broad, fundamental aspects of biodiversity. Some of these characteristics are the following:

  • Extremely complex sub-cellular and organellar structures/systems

  • patterns of cortical structure with their own mechanisms of inheritance and morphogenesis

  • mating systems that create genetic isolation and cryptic speciation

  • macro- micro-genomes and genome duplication

  • evidence of epigenetic mechanisms

  • an extremely broad array of ecological niches and lifestyles

  • biogeography that may be influenced by poorly understood factors such as extremely long ages of many phylogenetic lineages coupled with rapid evolutionary radiation at the species- population level resulting from short generation times

Theoretical challenges multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus.

GCBC 1 Discover linkages between specific genes, physiological mechanisms, and environmental challenges

GCBC 2 Understand how physiological and organellar systems of ciliates respond to rapidly fluctuating environmental conditions

GCBC 3 Understand molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying perception of environmental change by ciliates and how these result in responses that effect dispersal and maintain populations

GCBC 4 Understand the role of ciliates in biogeochemical cycles as a major step toward understanding function of the microbial component as a whole

GCBC 5 Identify the effects of global climatic change on ciliates and link these with alterations in the character and functioning of ecosystems

GCBC 6 Understand speciation in ciliates by investigating evolutionary rates and changes in morphology, development, life-cycle strategies and genetics underlying divergence of specific lineages

GCBC 7 Understand the part played by genomic architecture in the evolution of ciliates

GCBC 8 Determine the biogeographical distributions of species of ciliates, test hypotheses of endemicity, and identify mechanisms and rates of dispersal

GCBC 9 Identify patterns of diversity and diversity "hot spots," both geographic and ecological, for ciliates

GCBC 10 Understand the relationships between symbiotic ciliates and their hosts, including investigation of host-specificity, effects of parasites on hosts, coevolution with hosts, and genetics of host- symbiont interactions

Resource-development challenges multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus.

GCBC 11 Find practical applications for the functional diversity of ciliates (e.g., biological control, ecosystem management, translational research)

GCBC 12 Develop species of ciliates as new model organisms that can be used for a broad variety of research applications

GCBC 13 Assemble the tree of life for ciliates and use it as the basis of on-line resource that can be used for species identification and will include information about ecology, seasonality, geographic distribution, and intraspecific variation

GCBC 14 Develop a plan to train more ciliate systematists, particularly in regions of the world where they are scarce, in both morphological and molecular methods used to obtain data from taxonomic and phylogenetic analyses

GCBC 15 Develop and implement a significant new paradigm for capturing and storing biological information about ciliates that can support integrative research on their biodiversity

GCBC 16Establish a repository (“protist museum”) to store DNA and fixed cells for use in molecular analyses

GCBC 17 Establish a uniform protocol for describing or re-describing species of ciliates, including minimal standards that must be met for publication and guidance on morphological characterization, molecular characterization, sampling protocols, analytical methods, culturing, and long term storage of samples

GCBC 18 Establish a new standard of accessibility, openness, and adaptability in the creation and management of information resources to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery

GCBC 19 multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus. Establish a web presence for biodiversity of ciliates, using existing or new sites, that would facilitate communication between researchers, inform the public, link to a diverse set of informational resources, be updated frequently, and include a variety of social networking applications (e.g., facebook, blogs, phone apps)

GCBC 20 Raise public awareness of the societal and economic importance of an integrative approach to understanding the roles of ciliates in the environment, diseases of humans and animals, aquaculture, agriculture, drug discovery, and biomedical research

Taxonomic multidisciplinary research in biodiversity; thus, it has a natural integrative focus.



GCBC support the 3 dimensions of biodiversity

“Organisms are the bridge between genomes and ecosystems, and between genetics and evolution. The impacts of environmental changes are reflected in the organism’s structure, function, development, growth, evolution, distribution, and diversity, all being dependent upon its ability, or inability, to adapt and survive.”

Satterlie et al. (2009)