Andre Brown, Head of the Behavioural Genomics group at the LMS, has been awarded a highly competitive and prestigious grant from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP). The UK, USA and Australia based team have been awarded three years of funding to work on their project entitled ‘The repeatability of the genetic mechanisms underlying behavioural evolution’.
Andre’s is one of 34 winning teams to gain investment from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) in the 2019 Research Grants. They went through a rigorous year-long selection process in the global competition which began with 814 submitted letters of intent involving scientists with their laboratories in more than 60 different countries. This year, 9 Young Investigator Grants and 25 Program Grants were selected for funding, with each team member receiving, on average, $110,000-$125,000 per year for 3 years.
The HFSP is one of the few organisations that funds intercontinental collaborations in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research focused on the life sciences. The overall theme for the collaborative research grants was ‘Complex mechanisms of living organisms’. Emphasis is placed on basic science and novel collaborations that bring together scientists from different disciplines to focus on problems in the life sciences.
Andre Brown discussed why he applied for this grant in particular:
“This was a great fit for what we wanted to do since none of the team members would be able to do the project alone. Now we can bring expertise from colleagues from Australia and the United States to work towards our common goal.”
This grant will be used to understand how the same behaviours evolve in different species using quantitative genetics and evolutionary theory. For example, how different species of spider spin similar web architecture and how different species of lizard bob their heads in similar ways. This is also known as convergent evolution.
Andre will be collaborating with Erik Andersen from the Department of Molecular Biosciences, Northwestern University, USA and Kay Hodgins from the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Australia on this project.
Andre Brown shared more about their project with us:
“We’re going to study this using different species of nematode worms that Erik Andersen’s group in the US is collecting and sequencing. My lab is going to use our camera arrays to record behaviour data from thousands of worms in different conditions and the tracking software that we have developed to reduce the number of complex behaviours and identify those that we will study. Kay Hodgins is an evolutionary biologist based in Australia who has used similar kinds of data to look at convergent evolution in trees. Those methods we hope to translate into this new domain.”
One of the great things about HFSP grants is that they fund curiosity driven biology research without consideration of the potential impacts for the public. This project is one that will generate new knowledge about the world we live in simply by piquing curiosity.