Last month, UWG’s own Professor Brad Deline, from the Department of Geosciences, was granted a $25,000 Research Opportunity Award from the National Science Foundation. This is his third time receiving the award. The award was given to participate in the Assembling the Echinoderm Tree of Life Project.
As stated before, the award was given so Professor Deline could continue to research for the Assembling the Echinoderm Tree of Life Project. “The overall aim of the grant is to generate a tree of life for Echinoderms,” said Professor Deline. Echinoderms are a class of marine animals that include sea urchins and starfish. “In other words, trying to figure out how echinoderms are all related. This is easier in the modern world because there are 5 classes of echinoderms, but 450 million years ago there were 26 classes. My role in the project is to try and help figure out where crinoids (feather stars/sea lillies) came from along with their patterns of evolution.”
Even though the grant is for another project outside of UWG, the Department of Geosciences will benefit from Professor Deline’s work. “This grant affects the department in a few ways. First, it allows me time and travel funds to conduct my own research,” said Deline. “One of the most important aspects of science is communication, in terms of conference presentations and scientific manuscripts, which increases the visibility of the department and university. More importantly, this grant is focused on primarily undergraduate institutions, such that student research is a large component to the grant.”
In the past, the grant has also allowed students who work with Professor Deline to collect data and present their research. “In the three years I have received the grant, I have had seven students working with me on projects. Several of these students have presented their research at regional or national meetings which allowed them to network and learn from a vast array of geoscientists,” said Deline. “In addition, several of the students have accompanied me to museums to collect data. I brought three students to the Smithsonian a little over a year ago, and am currently planning a trip with students to Cincinnati.”
In the end, though, the award lets Professor Deline continue to work on the things he loves the most. “It feels great,” said Deline. “I got into this profession as a paleontologist because I love studying and learning about fossils and ancient life. This series of grants allow me to spend my summers traveling around the country visiting museums and discussing evolutionary dynamics with my colleagues.”

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