March 07, 2013
Dr. William Shear of the Hampden-Sydney College Biology Department and his research group's proposal to the National Science Foundation of the United States has been funded in the amount of $585,000. The proposal involves team members at Auburn University, the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), VMI, VPI, and international collaborators from Denmark, South Africa, Mexico and other countries around the world.
The goal of the three-year project is to construct a phylogenetic tree for the Class Diplopoda (millipedes) a globally important and megadiverse group of arthropods. The tree will be based not only on morphology, but also on comparisons of the transcriptomes (total transcribed RNA) of more than 100 species. Dr. Shear will participate in collecting and identifying the species to be used, which will involve travel to various localities in North America, Costa Rica, Thailand and South Africa. In addition he will study the chemical defenses of millipedes in collaboration with Dr. Tappey Jones of the VMI Chemistry Department.
Dr. Shear is the author of over 200 scientific papers and book chapters, and as a taxonomist has named and described more than 300 previously unknown species. He is also known for his paleontological work on Devonian terrestrial ecosystems.