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Plants evolve to produce new toxic chemicals while herbivores, and their associated microbial communities, change such that they become more tolerant to plant toxins. The understanding of plant toxins and herbivore tolerance is important for conservation biologists that manage native herbivores and plants, for the ranching and agricultural community that rely on plants to feed livestock and chemicals to defend crops from pests, and the medical community that relies on plant-derived chemicals to manage human health.

This project leverages, builds, and integrates research and education strengths across Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming to identify the Genomes Underlying Toxin Tolerance (GUTT) in vertebrate herbivores. The GUTT team will integrate a range of expertise to identify how variation in toxin tolerance influences populations of wild mammalian and avian herbivores. The team will work with high school teachers and use Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences in introductory biology, chemistry, and math courses to train, inspire, recruit, and retain a diverse workforce capable of applying genetic understanding of toxin tolerance in animals and microbes to conservation, agriculture and human health.

The project also connects GUTT participants with local agency and industry partners to diversify career and funding opportunities for faculty and students. The research and educational activities will increase the capacity for Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming faculty, students, and community partners to more effectively manage toxic plants and the animals and microbes that interact with these plants.

GUTT is an EPSCoR RII Track-2 award program which builds interjurisdictional collaborative teams of EPSCoR investigators in scientific focus areas consistent with NSF priorities.

Award Number: OIA-1826801
Period: August 15, 2018 to July 31, 2022
Amount: $6,000,000
Program: NSF EPSCoR RII Track-2

A collaborative research team from Boise State, ISU, and College of Idaho watch as a drone launches attached with sensors to eavesdrop on the chemical properties of plants at an Idaho field site.