Bioscience

Biodiversity Informatics Initiative Underway

December 20, 2007

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Bio5] – Two recently recruited scientists from UC Davis, Michael Sanderson, PhD, and Michelle McMahon, PhD, are jump-starting the new Biodiversity Informatics initiative at The University of Arizona (UA).

The initiative is building on existing UA strengths in biology and informatics. As it develops, the initiative will 1) provide nationally unique research and training programs, 2) establish a framework for meeting the expanding bioinformatics needs at the UA, and 3) complement the informatics programs at other institutions in the State. Funding for the initiative comes from the UA BIO5 Institute, College of Science and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Dr. Sanderson, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and a BIO5 member, is spearheading the development of the research and training program, focusing on the Sonoran Desert. Dr. McMahon, a research assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, runs the UA Herbarium.

With more than 380,000 specimens, it is the largest herbarium in the arid southwest and unique in having the largest collection in the world of plants from Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. It is one of several outstanding UA natural history collections.Plans also include competitively funded pilot projects to stimulate interactions between UA information scientists and biological researchers, and establishing a graduate interdisciplinary training program. For example, EEB is hiring postdoctoral level curators that will begin this fall; the new positions are part of a renewed investment in the UA natural history collections.