Kent State Researchers Awarded National Science Foundation Grant
Researchers from Kent State University’s Department of Geology have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study diversity, evolution and extinction in crabs, lobsters and shrimps. The $100,000, two-year grant will fund the study of the economically important, diverse group of animals whose geologic history extends back 400 million years.
Kent State Geology Professor Carrie Schweitzer is the principal investigator on the project. She and co-principal investigator Rodney Feldmann, professor emeritus of geology at Kent State, have worked together for 16 years, examining the evolutionary history of the Decapoda — crabs, lobsters and shrimps.
The study will provide the most comprehensive analysis of macroevolution of those crustaceans yet conducted, according to Schweitzer and Feldmann.
The pair plan to examine questions such as when the creatures first evolved, how have they diversified through time, how extinction events affected their diversity and how that has impacted their evolution.
“Looking at what happened to them in the past can help us to interpret what is happening now and what might happen in the future,” Schweitzer says. “For example, it seems like lobsters were more diverse at different times in the past than they are now. Crabs predominate now, and we want to know why that is.”
The effect of climate, sea level, the abundance of coral reef, and the interactions between crabs, lobsters and other animals are some of the issues the two plan to analyze.
“The majority of the grant money will go to paying Kent State undergraduate students to work with us on the project, inputting and analyzing data,” Schweitzer explains. “It also will fund some research work in Europe to look at museum collections to gather data about the presence and absence of these animals at different periods of time.”
The study has significance beyond classrooms and museums.
“Many of these are food animals, and we eat them as kind of luxuries,” Schweitzer says. “But that’s not true in other parts of the world, where they are main sources of food.”
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense. With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), the NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.
More information on the NSF grant is available at www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=1223206.
For more information about Kent State’s Department of Geology, visit www.kent.edu/geology.