The College of Agricultural Sciences Office for Research and Graduate Education, in partnership with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, supports proposals investigating challenges that can be addressed through applied evolution.

The College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS) Office for Research and Graduate Education, in partnership with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, invites proposals investigating challenges that can be addressed through applied evolution. All topics under applied evolution as explained below will be carefully considered. In this cycle, priority will be given to projects more specifically addressing evolutionary resistance. Interdisciplinary teams across the university system are strongly encouraged to submit a proposal.

Proposals with budgets up to $30,000 for one year will be considered. Requests for a second-year renewal will be considered but are contingent upon adequate progress in achieving year one goals and clearly defined year two objectives. Awards may range in amounts to support activities for team development and/or the generation of preliminary data around a clearly defined research problem.

What is Applied Evolution?

Over the course of the current pandemic the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, especially the more recent strains with increasing resistance to antibody detection, underscores the pressing need to better understand evolutionary processes more generally. The COVID pandemic, though our most immediate and dangerous threat, is just one of many evolutionary challenges facing society.

A changing climate and land-use patterns across the globe, increasing selective pressures associated with drug and pesticide use as well as biological invasions, are all significant factors in driving mismatches between animal and plant phenotypes and their environments. The impacts of these evolutionary drivers can result in increased animal and human disease, reduced yields of food and fiber and/or increasing loss of biodiversity. The need to feed and shelter a growing population brings with it the necessity to control insects, weeds, and plant pathogens that are a threat to increased productivity and food security. Diseases of both animals and humans as well as the vectors that transmit them result in loss of livestock production and increased incidence of human disease. The ability of individuals within a population to overcome detrimental stressors and survive and reproduce demonstrates the power of evolutionary survival and is exemplified by the ability of pathogens and pests to counter-adapt and propagate. For instance, vaccines may lose their efficacy as a virus mutates; mosquitos may evolve resistance to insecticides; unwanted insect pests, plant diseases, or weeds may overcome the potency of pesticides; an infectious bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics; or cancer cells may develop a resistance to drug therapies.

Applied evolution research involves investigations into how and why organisms adapt and counter-adapt through evolutionary processes. In better understanding the mechanisms of these evolutionary responses and counter-adaptations, this research has the potential to identify management approaches to provide sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing issues regarding resistance to pesticides, antibiotics, chemotherapeutics and to better predict the consequences and responses to disruptive ecological events such as climate change and biological invasion. 

Penn State and CAS research expertise across evolutionary biology, infectious diseases, cancer, ecology, herbicide, insecticide and fungicide resistance, as well as the range of complementary expertise among our colleagues across the university, uniquely positions Penn State to be a leader in evolutionary risk assessment and management.

Eligibility

  1. The Primary Investigator (PI) must be a faculty member with a research appointment (tenured, tenure-track, or non-tenure-track) from any unit within the Penn State system. Proposals that do not include CAS faculty are eligible and will be considered with support from the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences. Proposals led by CAS faculty with collaborators from other units may also seek support from Huck.
    1. Individuals can only be the PI on one proposal but may serve as a co-PI on multiple proposals.
  2. Projects must seek to address a critical research need and opportunity pertaining to applied evolution that is beyond the scope of a single laboratory or investigator’s focused area of research. All proposed research projects must require the participation of interdisciplinary collaborators with complementary fields of expertise. Ideas for multidisciplinary topics are encouraged and will be given preference.
  3. For team development-focused grants, a plan for engaging multiple departments or disciplines is required, but all team participants do not have to be identified in the proposal.

Application Process

Full proposals must be submitted as a unified PDF by April 30, 2022, using the online submission form: https://psu.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1861943

All proposals will be routed through the vice/associate dean for research of the participating colleges or campuses for acknowledgement of the proposal (no financial commitment is required). Applicants outside of CAS are encouraged to discuss this component with their unit’s research office in advance of the full proposal submission deadline.

The InfoReady form requires choosing which of the following best describes your team and the nature of your expected expenditures (listed here as reference):

  1. College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS) team
    1. All collaborators on the proposal have appointments within CAS
    2. All personnel costs are within CAS
  2. Lead in CAS with team members from any unit
    1. PI has appointment within CAS
    2. Funds are necessary for supporting non-CAS personnel or other expenditures in another college or Penn State campus
  3. Lead in other Penn State unit with team members from any unit
    1. PI and collaborators may have appointments in any unit(s) within the Penn State system

Download the Request for Proposals

SUBMIT a Proposal

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802