Grand Challenges 3 Dimensions of Biodiversity

What are Grand Challenges?

Grand Challenges are a time-honored way for scientists to organize, focus, and direct large-scale research efforts.

They serve as a way for groups of researchers that aspire to be integrative in nature to energize themselves and rediscover integrative approaches to scientific investigation.

These challenges also maximize the effectiveness of research efforts and build more productive interactions with funding agencies.

The Grand Challenges of Organismic Biology (GCOB) proposed by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) in 2010 are only one of several programs for Grand Challenges in biology begun by major scientific societies in cooperation with NSF—such initiatives represent a “Renaissance of Integrative Biology”.


Grand Challenges for IRCN-BC

The IRCN–BC used the GCOB as its model for a new set of Grand Challenges to drive innovative research on biodiversity of ciliates. In its first year, the IRCN-BC identified 20 Grand Challenges of Biodiversity of Ciliates (GCBC) as a way to focus research efforts and stimulate integrative approaches to specific problems.  Ten of these address theoretical problems, and the rest relate to development of resources.

Theoretical Challenges (click)

GCBC  1   Discover linkages between specific genes, physiological mechanisms, and environmental challenges

GCBC  2    Understand how physiological and organellar systems of ciliates respond to rapidly fluctuating   environmental conditions

GCBC  3  Understand molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying perception of environmental change by   ciliates and how these result in responses that effect dispersal and maintain populations

GCBC  4  Understand the role of ciliates in biogeochemical cycles as a major step toward understanding   function of the microbial component as a whole

GCBC  5   Identify the effects of global climatic change on ciliates and link these with alterations in the   character and functioning of ecosystems

GCBC  6   Understand speciation in ciliates by investigating evolutionary rates and changes in morphology,   development, life-cycle strategies and genetics underlying divergence of specific lineages

GCBC  7  Understand the part played by genomic architecture in the evolution of ciliates

GCBC  8  Determine the biogeographical distributions of species of ciliates, test hypotheses of endemicity,   and identify mechanisms and rates of dispersal

GCBC  9   Identify patterns of diversity and diversity “hot spots,” both geographic and ecological, for   ciliates

GCBC 10   Understand the relationships between symbiotic ciliates and their hosts, including investigation   of host-specificity, effects of parasites on hosts, coevolution with hosts, and genetics of host-  symbiont interactions

Resource-Development Challenges (click)

GCBC 11   Find practical applications for the functional diversity of ciliates (e.g., biological control,   ecosystem management, translational research)  

GCBC 12   Develop species of ciliates as new model organisms that can be used for a broad variety of   research applications

GCBC 13  Assemble the tree of life for ciliates and use it as the basis of on-line resource that can be   used for species identification and will include information about ecology, seasonality,   geographic distribution, and intraspecific variation

GCBC 14   Develop a plan to train more ciliate systematists, particularly in regions of the world where   they are scarce, in both morphological and molecular methods used to obtain data from   taxonomic and phylogenetic analyses

GCBC 15   Develop and implement a significant new paradigm for capturing and storing biological   information about ciliates that can support integrative research on their biodiversity

GCBC 16  Establish a repository (“protist museum”) to store DNA and fixed cells for use in molecular analyses

GCBC 17  Establish a uniform protocol for describing or re-describing species of ciliates, including minimal   standards that must be met for publication and guidance on morphological characterization,   molecular characterization, sampling protocols, analytical methods, culturing, and long term storage   of samples

GCBC 18  Establish a new standard of accessibility, openness, and adaptability in the creation and   management of information resources to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery

GCBC 19  Establish a web presence for biodiversity of ciliates, using existing or new sites, that would facilitate   communication between researchers, inform the public, link to a diverse set of informational   resources, be updated frequently, and include a variety of social networking applications (e.g.,   facebook, blogs, phone apps)

GCBC 20  Raise public awareness of the societal and economic importance of an integrative approach to   understanding the roles of ciliates in the environment, diseases of humans and animals, aquaculture,   agriculture, drug discovery, and biomedical research


For more information please see the IRCN-BC Grand Challenges Powerpoint created at the 2013 Conference.