RCN: TraitNet - Coordinating Trait-Based Ecological and Revolutionary Research

Project: Research project

Project Details


Environmental change, such as climate warming, biological invasion, local and global extinction, land use and land cover change, elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, and much more, can have a variety of impacts on species, communities, and ecosystems. Accurately forecasting such impacts requires detailed information on species' traits. 'Traits' refers to the characteristics of plant, animal, and microbial species that influence ecosystem processes such as body size, metabolic rate, stoichiometry, and much more. Information on species' traits and the number of studies that use them are growing at an exponential rate. TraitNet will facilitate this dramatic increase in trait-based evolutionary and ecological research by fostering collaboration among researchers and coordinating the collection, sharing, and archiving of species trait data. Currently, traits are used across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including niche theory, community assembly, metabolic ecological theory, phylogenetics, conservation, and ecological stoichiometry, but each discipline has developed its own operational definitions, protocols, and databases with little coordination. TraitNet will advance this research by coordinating trait-based research across disciplines via an integrated program of electronic collaborations, workshops, training seminars, and electronic and journal publication and will develop a universal trait database prototype entitled TraitBank. TraitNet's five primary goals are (1) address core hypotheses in trait-based research, (2) identify critical data gaps, (3) coordinate the standardization of collection and storage of trait data, (4) assemble a database to address core hypotheses, and (5) facilitate the development of cross-disciplinary computational tools for merging, disseminating, and sharing trait data. TraitNet's website will be widely accessible to the scientific community and the public, while protecting the intellectual property rights of individual investigators. TraitNet will further diversity in science by maintaining a strong gender balance, including under-represented groups, and balancing participants among students, postdoctoral scientists, and senior and junior researchers. This coordination by TraitNet will substantially minimize redundant collection efforts, maximize scientific productivity, and stretch taxpayer dollars.

Effective start/end date4/1/073/31/14


  • National Science Foundation: $430,963.00


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