Siphonophores are a unique group of jellyfish, described as superorganisms. They are colonial animals, with thousands of genetically identical bodies. Unlike other colonial animals like corals, all the bodies are specialized for particular tasks such as feeding, swimming, and defense. Dunn and the members of his lab want to find out which genes in siphonopores are tasked with their respective functions and how evolutionary changes in gene activity correspond with body type.
Understanding how evolution has shaped siphonophores into such complex colonial organisms may help explain how evolution was able to generate complex multicellular organisms, including humans.
Dunn also will use the award to build computational tools for evolutionary analyses of genomic data. He plans to hire a data-analysis programmer and add at least one postdoctoral researcher in computational biology to his lab.
In addition to his research, Dunn has created an acclaimed website that reveals the unexpected world of animals including siphonophores through innovative animation, podcasts and text. The site has been featured in various media, including National Public Radio's Science Friday website. He also has just co-authored a book to teach scientists how to work with large datasets, titled Practical Computing for Biologists (Sinauer Associates Inc.)
The annual Waterman award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by NSF. Candidates may not be more than 35 years old, or seven years beyond receiving a doctorate, and must stand out for their individual achievements. The selection committee is made up of 12 appointed members from a
|Contact: Richard Lewis|