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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

  • Nicole Lee
Award Date:06/22/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 138,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 138,000
  • FY 2021=$138,000
Start Date:06/01/2022
End Date:05/31/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology FY 2021: Determining behavioral, neuroendocrine, and genetic predictors of dispersal in colonial tuco-tucos
Federal Award ID Number:2109718
Program:Broadening Participation of Gr
Program Officer:
  • Daniel Marenda
  • (703) 292-2157

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of California, Berkeley
Cong. District:13

Abstract at Time of Award

This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2021, Broadening Participation of Groups Under-represented in Biology. The Fellowship supports a research and training plan for the Fellow that will increase the participation of groups underrepresented in biology. The proposed research investigates what changes in the brain when young adults leave their families to begin their lives as independent adults (dispersal). Not all individuals disperse, and variation in dispersal decisions affects how social individuals are, as well as survival rate, reproductive success, and more. Understanding the reasons why some individuals, but not others, disperse is critical to many facets of mammalian—including human—biology. Yet, not much is known about the neurological underpinnings of dispersal. This research will be the first to combine studies in the laboratory and in field enclosures that simulate natural environments to explore the neuroscience of dispersal. The Fellow will gain technical training in cutting-edge neuroscientific tools while increasing the participation of groups underrepresented in biology by developing a support network and planning a symposium for underrepresented minority postdocs. This research investigates dispersal in colonial tuco-tucos (Ctenomys sociabilis), which exhibit within-species differences in dispersal. Variation in dispersal decisions, even within females from the same litter, creates an unusual and important opportunity to examine the neural mechanisms that contribute to dispersal decisions in mammals. Oxytocin and dopamine have been shown to be associated with differences in social behavior in other rodent species, and both endocrine systems exhibit plasticity as individuals transition from juveniles to adults. Predictors of dispersal will be determined in captive animals by quantifying morphological and behavioral features linked to dispersal (e.g. body size, decreased sociality), characterization of oxytocin and dopamine receptor density and distribution (receptor autoradiography), transcriptomic analyses of oxytocin and dopamine gene expression (RNAseq), and monitoring of in vivo dopamine neural activity (fiber photometry). Having characterized neuroendocrine pathways associated with dispersal in captive individuals, the Fellow will attempt to predict the dispersal behavior of semi-captive females, housed in semi-natural enclosures and therefore subject to species-typical selective pressures. The Fellow will master techniques including RNAseq and fiber photometry. The Fellow will also develop a support network for underrepresented minority postdocs, by facilitating biweekly peer mentoring circles to provide a safe space to discuss challenges and hive-mind solutions, and organizing an annual symposium for postdocs with panels and workshops by underrepresented minority faculty on navigating academia and alternative careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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