University of Iowa assistant professor of biology Andrew Forbes has received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the origins of biodiversity.
In particular, he will determine whether new species can be generated through interactions between a particular species of plant-eating insect and its parasites –- whether speciation of the apple-eating fly Rhagoletis pomonella has led to the creation of new diversity among its three insect parasites, Diachamsa alloeum, Diachasmimorpha mellea, and Utetes canaliculatus.
The broader biological question involves a foundational principle of evolutionary ecology: Can biodiversity beget biodiversity? As new species form, they may create new niches for other life forms to exploit, thereby creating a chain reaction of biodiversity.
In addition to supporting basic research activity, the grant will fund science training, education, and research activities by Forbes and his colleagues at local, university, and international levels. This project is part of a collaboration between Forbes and professors at the University of Notre Dame and Cornell University.
The Department of Biology is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.