An American Alligator in Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge
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An American Alligator in Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Florida.

May 5, 2010
An American Alligator in Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Florida. The National Science Foundation offers grants for genetic studies of neglected species, such as this alligator.

More about this Image In 2001, NSF launched a new grant competition designed to help boost genetic research on organisms that are not models of human biology and therefore, not normally supported by biomedical science. A handful of organisms were selected, with an attempt to represent as many branches of the Tree of Life as possible. During the selection process, favor was given to those species for which little resources currently exist.

NSF intends to use the data resulting from the program to build libraries of bacterial artificial chromosomes (or BACs) for use in detailed genetic studies of neglected species. Awardees will use the grant money to pay for BAC libraries. BACs can be used for storing and cataloging DNA, mainly as bits of genomes that have been broken into manageable stretches and then tagged and inserted into bacteria. Biologists may use BACs to examine genes, compare whole genomes of two or more organisms and then fill the gaps in existing gene sequences.

Species chosen for the program range from Edwards's worm lizard (Amphisbaenia alba) to a butterfly (Heliconius erato) to a tiny crustacean with a transparent body (Daphnia pulex).

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