Seed Grants Program

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sciences 

Ecosystems, biodiversity, and global change are major themes of both YIBS’ mission to support research in the environmental sciences and Yale’s University Science Strategy Committee (USSC) priority on Environmental and Evolutionary Sciences. This program was created to spark research that addresses themes relating to the maintenance, origins, and conservation of biodiversity, specifically at their interface with ecosystem dynamics.

2022 Projects 

Biodiversity of Marine Invertebrates in Indonesia 

Principal Investigator: Casey DunnProfessor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Curator of Invertebrate Zoology and Informatics, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Project Description: The Indonesian Archipelago is vast, with more than 17,000 islands spanning an area about the size of the continental USA. Indonesia is at the heart of the Coral Triangle, a diversity hotspot for many groups of marine organisms. This abundance and diversity of marine animals is fundamental to the Indonesian economy, culture, and well-being, and fascinating in its own right. Different explanations for this extreme diversity have been proposed. The primary challenge to teasing apart these explanations is that the biodiversity of marine invertebrates in Indonesia remains poorly described, and understood, relative to many other regions.

The Yale team will work with Indonesian scientist Dr. Hagi Yulia Sugeha and her students at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) to build local capacity for biodiversity research and initiate biological inventories and population studies of multiple marine species, including jellyfish. This project includes fieldwork in Indonesia, but that is paired with multiple visits by Indonesian scientists to Yale for training, museum work, and lab work.

Coexistence of Tropical Understory Plant Communities 

Principal Investigator: Simon QueenboroughMusser Director, Yale Tropical Resources Institute & Senior Lecturer & Research Scientist, Yale School of the Environment

Project Description: The coexistence of hundreds of sympatric species within tropical forests remains an unsolved problem. Most studies have focused on trees. However, fitness (the net integrated result of growth, survival, and reproduction across its entire life cycle) is hard to estimate for such long-lived organisms.  

In contrast, most herbaceous plants complete their life cycle in much less time. Thus, estimating the direct effects of factors driving population growth rates and fitness (rather than proxies such as growth or mortality) is much more tractable.

This project will monitor the distribution and population dynamics of a suite of herbaceous understory plant species over two years throughout a large environmentally variable 25-ha forest plot. We will link variation in local abiotic (topographic habitat, soil nutrients, water, and light availability) and biotic (local conspecific and heterospecific herb density, and local tree neighborhood) factors with functional trait data (seed size, specific leaf area and size) to (i) determine variation in population growth rates and (ii) to address the relative importance of spatiotemporal variation in these factors for mechanisms of coexistence and patterns of diversity.

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