Is behavior caused by nature or nurture? Our project uses genomic biology to fuse this dichotomy, into a new paradigm of the environment ("nurture") impacts an inherited genome ("nature") by regulating gene expression during an animal's lifetime.
BeeSpace is analyzing social behavior on an unprecedented scale using Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee,as the model organism. The Biology Research is dissecting the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the societal roles that worker bees take on during their lifetimes. Using whole genome microarrays on honey bee brains, we record gene expression for bees performing a particular role. In 30 unique experiments focusing on foraging, maturation, and aggression, we have recorded gene expression for over 1000 honeybees using 2000 microarrays.
BeeSpace is developing unique software for functional analysis of gene expression. The Informatics Research is developing an interactive environment, where biologists can create customized spaces from literature to analyze concepts describing gene function. BeeSpace Navigator supports concept navigation for hypothesis development and testing. This research will enable all scientists who study bee genes to live on the frontier of integrative biology, where biotechnology enables routine expression analysis and bioinformatics enables functional analysis unconstrained by pre-existing categories.
The Project Research is focused upon the functional analysis, being tested by the international Arthropod Base Consortium. The concept navigation also prototypes future search, where individual communities maintain their own information in local spaces together forming a global whole. BeeSpace is thus a model for the Internet, as it transforms into the Interspace. The Project Education has created an electronic curriculum for teaching behavioral genomics to high school students. BeeSpace is thus a model for teaching frontier biological research to beginning student scientists.
The BeeSpace project was funded by a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (NSF FIBR) program, from September 2004 to August 2009, with no-cost extension until August 2010.