The UC Davis Center for Population Biology will receive a $2.6 million, five-year federal grant to train the next generation of scientists specializing in invasions of non-native plants and animals.
Graduate students in the new interdisciplinary program, titled "Biological Invasions from Genes to Ecosystems, from Science to Society," will study the ethical, legal, social and economic issues, as well as the biology, of invasive species.
"Our goal is to develop a model program for training students from the life sciences, social sciences, engineering, physical sciences and humanities to address the complex environmental challenges of the future," says Richard Grosberg, a professor of evolution and ecology who directs the Center for Population Biology.
The grant comes from a National Science Foundation program called Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT), started in 1998 to help U.S. universities produce more skilled scientists and engineers.
UC Davis is one of a handful of universities in the nation to have three IGERT grants. Two other grants, in 1998 and 1999, went to the campus's Institute of Transportation Studies and to a research project called Nanophases in the Environment, Agriculture and Technology. The new IGERT grant will provide support for about 10 students each year from graduate and professional programs across the campus.
Problems caused by non-native plants and animals cost the United States an estimated $130 billion a year, threaten the survival of endangered native species and sometimes endanger human health. In California--with its diverse habitats and climatic regions, history of human immigration and its status as a hub of international trade--non-native species are of particular concern.
Grosberg will chair a group of five faculty members directing the project. Other project directors are Holly Doremus, head of the UC Davis Program in Environmental Law; Kevin Rice, chair of the Ecology Graduate Group; Sharon Strauss, associate professor of evolution and ecology; and Susan Ustin, director of the Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing.