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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:SUNY at Stony Brook
  • Maureen A O'Leary
  • (631) 444-3730
  • David L Ferguson
  • Chaitanya K Baru
  • Kai Lin
Award Date:07/22/2008
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 610,614
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 730,400
  • FY 2010=$119,786
  • FY 2008=$610,614
Start Date:08/01/2008
End Date:07/31/2012
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:Transforming Morphological Ssystematics From Desktop to Web Applications: Development of the Online Workspace 3.0
Federal Award ID Number:0743309
DUNS ID:804878247
Parent DUNS ID:020657151

Awardee Location

Street:WEST 5510 FRK MEL LIB
City:Stony Brook
County:Stony Brook
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:SUNY at Stony Brook
Street:WEST 5510 FRK MEL LIB
City:Stony Brook
County:Stony Brook
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

Stony Brook University is awarded a grant to develop a prototype database for comparative anatomy into a production resource to support anatomy-based phylogenetics research. MorphoBank ( was created as a professional resource for research scientists and their students that provides tools to allow comparative anatomists in different parts of the world to work simultaneously, in real time, on one project via the web. MorphoBank allows professional scientists and their trainees to upload images of comparative anatomy through a browser interface, to analyze and label these images, and to create morphological character matrices (the raw data for phylogenetic analysis) from them. The work performed under this award will create a scalable Web application that expands on the collaborative environment for character management and implements Web-based phylogenetic tree searches through the CIPRES project and Web-based phylogenetic tree viewing. The project will contribute to educational infrastructure by partnering researchers in the history of life, paleontology, and informatics (particularly database integration). The tools for image storage, annotation, and analysis developed here will have long term importance for describing anatomical traits relevant to species identification, and for documenting anatomy in model organisms. The PIs will actively recruit minority and underserved interns through ongoing relationships with the Research Experiences for Undergraduates and Academic Enrichment programs at SDSC/UCSD, and the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) Program.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Spaulding, M., M. A. O'Leary, J. Gatesy. "Relationships of Cetacea (Mammalia, Artiodactyla) Among Mammals: Increased Taxon Sampling Alters Positions of Key Fossils and Interpretations of Character Evolution." PLOS One., v.4(9), 2009, p.1.

Claeson, K. M., M. A. O'Leary, E. M. Roberts, F. Sissoko, M. Bouare, L. Tapanila, D. Goodwin, and M. D. Gottfried. "Myliobatis (Rajiformes: Myliobatidae) from the Late Cretaceous of Mali and an appraisal of myliobatid taxonomy based on dentition." Palaeonotolgica Polonica, v.55, 2010, p.6.

Novacek, M. J. and AToL Mammal Morphology Team "A team-based approach yields a new matrix of 4,500 morphological characters for mammalian phylogeny." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, v.28, 2008, p..

O'Leary, M. A. "Artiodactylans: phylogeny and the fossil record." Journal of Mammalian Evolution, v.16, 2009, p.65.

O'Leary, M. A. "An anatomical and phylogenetic study of the osteology of the petrosal of extant and extinct Cetartiodactylans (Mammalia) and relatives." Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History., v.335, 2010, p.1.

Hill, R. V., J. A. McCartney, E. Roberts, M. Bouare, F. Sissoko, and M. A. O'Leary. 2008. "Dyrosaurid (Crocodyliformes: Mesoeucrocodylia) fossils from the Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene of Mali: implications for phylogeny and survivorship across the K-T boundary." American Museum Novitates, v.3631, 2008, p.1.

Wolfe, J. and T. Hegna "Testing the phylogenetic position of fossil pancrustacean larvae: a semaphoront-based coding system." Conference Proceeding: 2nd International Congress on Invertebrate Morphology: Cambridge, MA., v., 2011, p..

O'Leary, M. A. "MorphoBank: collecting and storing phenomic data for phylogenetic research in the "cloud"." Conference Proceeding: American Association of Physical Anthropologists, national meeting, v., 2011, p..

O'Leary, M. A., S. Kaufman "MorphoBank: phylophenomics in the "cloud"." Cladistics, v.27, 2011, p..

O'Leary, M.A., Spaulding, M., Parent, S., and Gatesy, J. "Instability of pivotal fossil clades in cetartiodactylan phylogeny and evolution of the ear region and ankle." ournal of Vertebrate Paleontology., v., 2008, p..

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

To understand evolution, including how living and extinct species are related to each other and how species evolved through time, we must develop and test our hypotheses of the Tree of Life.  Similar to a geneology describing relationships among people, the Tree of Life (also called a phylogeny, phylogenetic tree or cladogram) is a roadmap of relationships among all species as they have evolved through descent with modification.  The Tree of Life will allow scientists to explain how new features such as wings, limbs, eyes, and feathers, to name a few, appeared and how anatomy relates to molecular biology.

Different kinds of data are used to build the Tree of Life, including both genotypes (molecular data) and phenotypes (e.g., anatomical data, behavioral data).  Over the past two decades we have made great advances in developing tools to gather and test genotypes for evolution but similar tools for studying phenotypes have been relatively slow to develop.  Phenotypes are, however, a very rich source of data.  Study of phenotypes is also often the only way that scientists can integrate fossil species into the Tree of Life because genotypes do not preserve for the vast majority of fossil species.

This grant funded the development of web software called MorphoBank.  MorphoBank is a publicly available tool for scientific research that uses phenotypes to address evolutionary hypotheses; it is a database and workspace that is available via the internet.  MorphoBank provides tools for teams of scientists to self-assemble to tackle larger scientific projects than they were previously able to address.  On MorphoBank scientists can conduct discussions about anatomy and can produce "matrices," which are an assembly of data that can be run through algorithms to produce parts of the Tree of Life.  When scientists publish their matrices (as they do on timetables coordinated with the publication of papers), they then release to other scientists, and the public, a much more enriched legacy of data, particularly as MorphoBank provides them the tools to associate images with words.  By associating images of anatomy with words, scientists explain their work in more detail to their colleagues worldwide and to the public.

MorphoBank has registered almost 1,000 scientists and their students by the end of 2012.  The site contains almost 90,000 images and over 500 matrices capturing a wide range of evolutionary biology data on a range of fossil and living species including mammals, plants, and insects. 

This grant has supported development of a site that has become a core resource for the scientific community and that continues to serve scientists beyond the scope of the funding period.

Last Modified: 11/07/2012
Modified by: Maureen A O'leary

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