The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) announced $6 million in available funding to support the development of transformative plant and animal phenomics and microbiome technologies.

This USDA-NIFA, NSF-BIO Joint Activity is soliciting Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals that address the development of innovative approaches for phenotyping and microbiome characterizations, as well as for elucidating the role of microbiomes in plants and animals. This activity addresses critical gaps in tools available for characterizing plant and animal phenotypes and microbiomes, in part to more fully realize the potential of low-cost high throughput sequencing and genotyping technologies. Types of projects that might be appropriate include but are not limited to:

  • Technologies that increase the accuracy and throughput of existing phenotypic and microbiome data acquisition
  • Extending the diversity of phenotypes that can be measured
  • Automation or mechanization, including robotics and sensors, for phenotyping
  • Standardization of ontologies, interoperability of platforms and systems, and integration of datasets
  • Technologies that would identify the metabolic activities specific to particular microbes within a microbiome as well as facilitating elucidation of biochemical communication between microbes, and between microbes and their hosts
  • Novel modeling approaches that address problems in phenotyping or microbiome structure and function

Proposed studies should be potentially transformative and may be considered “high-risk, high-payoff”, and be compatible with the budget and time limits ($300,000, 2 years) of the EAGER funding mechanism.

Summaries are due May 12.