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Assembling, Visualizing, and Analyzing the Tree of Life (AVAToL)

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived. See NSF 16-522 for the latest version.

Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.

An Ideas Lab activity to stimulate transformative approaches to building, visualizing, and analyzing an interactive tree of life


In the 150 years since Darwin's recognition that all living organisms are related by descent with modification, we have made enormous progress in elucidating phylogenetic relationships within major branches of the tree of life. In the last decade, DNA sequences and other data have provided compelling confirmation of many previously inferred relationships, provided evidence of unexpected relationships, and accelerated the discovery of new clades. The NSF Assembling the Tree of Life or AToL program has further enabled clarification of relationships within major groups of organisms. At this point, compelling needs are to achieve integration and synthesis of these separate phylogenies into a cohesive tree across all of life and to develop new tools for visualizing, querying, and further analyzing the tree of life. This is a daunting challenge requiring enormous conceptual advances, potential use of new kinds of data and characters, massive data collection, and the development of powerful analytical and visualization techniques.

The Assembling, Visualizing and Analyzing the Tree of Life (AVAToL) activity supports novel and transformative approaches to the development of an integrated and robust tree of life, as well as visualization and analysis on a dynamic tree of life. This will take place through the Ideas Lab project development and review process. The goal of this activity is to identify opportunities for investment to significantly advance the state-of-the-art in tree construction, visualization, and analysis across the tree of life. Participants selected through an open application process will engage in an intensive five-day residential workshop to generate project ideas through an innovative, real-time review process. New multidisciplinary teams will form during this workshop to engage in creative problem solving directed at outstanding problems concerning the tree of life. Multidisciplinary integrative approaches calling for communication and interaction among diverse scientists are key to the success of the approach. For example, in addition to those working in systematics and phylogenetics, AVAToL might benefit from mathematicians and computer scientists to contribute algorithms and models, bioinformaticians or genomicists to contribute data pipelines and novel molecular characters, or statisticians and artists with an interest in novel methods of visualization and interactive use of the tree of life. Therefore, members of the systematics research community, bioinformaticians, genomicists, morphologists, paleontologists, computer scientists, statisticians, mathematicians, educators involved in training the next generation of researchers, and representatives of any other disciplines that might contribute important ideas are all strongly encouraged to apply.

Program contacts

Timothy Collins
BIO-AVAToL@nsf.gov (703) 292-4763
Maureen Kearney
BIO-AVAToL@nsf.gov (703) 292-7187 BIO/DEB
Vicki J. Martin
BIO-AVAToL@nsf.gov (703) 292-7361
Anne M. Maglia
BIO-AVAToL@nsf.gov (703) 292-8470
Sarah Mathews
BIO-AVAToL@nsf.gov (703) 292-4415

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