February 14, 2020 at 4:32 pm

Miles Awarded NSF OPUS Grant to Build Database of Several Hundred Lizard Species

Dr. Donald Miles, portrait

Dr. Donald Miles

By Kaitlyn Lyons

Dr. Donald Miles, Professor of Biological Sciences at Ohio University, received a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology program Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis” (OPUS).

This grant, in the amount of $209,451, is to provide support for synthesizing a body of prior research. The goal is to generate new insights and understanding of the field.

Miles’ planned activities include two components. The first part of this grant is to provide Miles release from teaching during the fall semester of 2020 and 2021. During this time, he will be writing a book about ecomorphology. The goal is to synthesize the different research avenues that have used morphological data, and how can morphology inform us about adaptation, adaptive radiations, and diversifications.

The second component of the project supported by the grant is to assemble a database with the data and field notes that Miles has accumulated over the past 35 years. Miles has data on the external morphology of several hundred lizard species, data on physiological performance, and data based on long-term studies of lizards of the arid southwest including Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Texas as well as the Galapagos Islands, South Africa and Australia. The plan is to put all of this data into an online database that is accessible to the scientific community.

Multiple undergraduate and graduate students have been instrumental in the acquiring the data. Past students include Scott Blackburn, Brian Knapp and Michael Robson. All of the work Miles has done involved many collaborations with graduate students since the 1990s.  The grad students have worked on different aspects of lizard morphology and lizard performance.  The grant proposal includes money to support an undergraduate student in digitizing and archiving the data.

The goal of this online database is to have links to radiographic images, morphological data and physiological data, along with actual photos of the species. In addition, there will be field notes archived online as well as details of capture histories of individuals from each species included in past studies. Investigators also will be able to download data from particular species and geographical areas. This database will be in a format that links different data types that will be very beneficial for evolutionary biologists and ecologists. This database will have immediate analysis to convert the data into a file to whatever way want to use it. The NSF has the goal to increase the dissemination of data funded by the agency and to develop scientific infrastructure. The online database enhances the access of the data to scientists around the world. Date collected by Miles has collected over the years will become available to any future investigator.

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