Amazonia is Earth's most iconic center of biological diversity and endemism and is among the most important terrestrial biomes due to its contributions to global systems ecology. This project seeks to answer an overarching question in biodiversity science: How was the modern Amazonian biota and its environment assembled across space and time? The research is designed to understand the evolutionary and environmental-ecological history of late Neogene-Recent Amazonia through a comparative approach that integrates across the disciplines of systematics, population biology, ecosystem structure and function, geology, Earth systems modeling and remote sensing, and environmental history. The project also investigates how biotic and environmental change over this time-period influenced Amazonian functional diversity in biogeochemical flows, and how these, in turn, shaped the dimensions of biodiversity seen today as well as the history of global-scale changes in biogeochemical cycling.
The project, which is a collaboration with Brazilian scientists and funding agencies, represents the most integrative examination of Amazonian biodiversity and its history to date. The approaches taken describe a methodological template for analyzing information about the history of biotic and environmental change across large, ecologically complex landscapes that can be generalized to other systems. The project creates a large framework for formal and informal education including the training of students, development of a major museum exhibit on Amazonia, workshops for K-12 STEM teachers, publications in professional educational journals, and a web portal, The Evolutionary Encyclopedia of Amazonian Biodiversity, that will make all results available to the public, as well as serve as an informational platform about Amazonian biodiversity and its global importance. This award is being co-funded by NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering.