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NSF giving $2.5 million to City College NY to solve 'butterfly mystery'

Staff writer ▼ | September 25, 2015
Dr. David J. Lohman, assistant professor of biology at The City College of New York, and his colleagues received $2.5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation for a collaborative study to resolve the evolutionary history of all butterfly species.
Biology   Study on butterfly evolution
Entitled "ButterflyNet—an integrative framework for comparative biology," the support is part of $12.3 million in NSF Genealogy of Life awards announced last week.

Lohman will lead a group of scientists from Georgetown University, Harvard University, the University of Florida and Yale University in the project.

According to Lohman, butterflies are the best studied of all insects in terms of their morphology, species distributions, behavior, and larval resources. What has not been done is to synthesize this scattered information and place it in an evolutionary context to study broad-scale patterns of ecology and evolution in the group.

"This project will achieve these goals by reconstructing the evolutionary history of the approximately 18,800 described species and assembling a database of biological information about each species using field guides, citizen science, museum collections, and other sources," he said.

All of this information will be made available to the public via a website and other web servers aimed at catalyzing synthetic research and comparative studies.

In addition to public outreach and education, Lohman and his team will train graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in systematics and bioinformatics.

City College, which will receive nearly $1 million of the grant, will train one postdoctoral research scientist and one graduate student.