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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

  • Grace Smith-Vidaurre
Award Date:06/25/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 138,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 138,000
  • FY 2020=$138,000
Start Date:02/01/2021
End Date:01/31/2023
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 2020
Federal Award ID Number:2010982
Program:Broadening Participation of Gr
Program Officer:
  • John Barthell
  • (703) 292-2618

Awardee Location

City:Las Cruces
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Rockefeller University
City:New York
County:New York
Cong. District:12

Abstract at Time of Award

This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2020, 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. Research conducted by the Fellow will address how the early-life environment influences vocal learning, the ability to learn vocalizations from family and social companions that is shared by various mammalian and avian species. Although vocal learning is one of the best studied forms of social learning, much remains to be discovered about why animals vary in vocal learning abilities, and how variation in these abilities is inherited across generations. This research will contribute to our understanding of how vocal learning is sensitive to the early-life environment, and whether influences of the early-life environment persist across two generations. The Fellow will broaden participation of underrepresented groups by including grassroots scientists, mentoring undergraduate students through independent research, and disseminating quantitative skills important for diverse careers. The Fellow will manipulate early-life stress over two generations of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to identify changes in vocal learning phenotypes and heritable epigenetic patterns in brain vocal learning centers. Zebra finch pairs will be exposed to either random, repeated food withdrawal (high early-life stress), or no food manipulation (low early-life stress), and eggs will be cross-fostered among treatments. Male fledglings’ vocal learning abilities and social interactions will be assessed in naturalistic aviaries to characterize vocal learning phenotypes and social factors that could influence brain molecular patterns (such as social rank). A subset of males will be sacrificed to evaluate DNA methylation and gene expression patterns in two brain vocal learning centers. Remaining males and females will be bred within early-life treatments and subjected to these early-life treatments as above. Offspring will be cross-fostered across early-life treatments to reflect either sustained or reversed early-life stress across two generations, and male vocal learning phenotypes and brain molecular patterns evaluated as before. The Fellow will be trained in cutting-edge neurogenetic techniques and quantitative analyses of animal social interactions. This project will recruit grassroots scientists to crowd-source acoustic data analysis, facilitate independent research by underrepresented minority undergraduate students, and result in the bilingual dissemination of critical quantitative skills through workshops and teaching materials in the R programming language. 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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