Did you miss it? January 2022 Virtual Office Hours Recap: Organismal Response to Climate Change

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) held a Virtual Office Hour on January 20, 2022 providing information on the Organismal Response to Climate Change solicitation (ORCC; 22-513).

The slides are available HERE

The ORCC opportunity encourages integrative, cross-disciplinary research that examines the organismal mechanisms that underlie adaptive or maladaptive responses to environmental factors associated with climate change. More information on this opportunity and contacts for program personnel can be found on the ORCC program page.

Below is a recap of some questions asked at the VOH:

Can you explain the difference between the two NSF cross-directorate solicitations – ORCC and Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BOCP; 22-508)?

The existence of these two programs reflects a prioritization in BIO, and NSF more broadly, to understand the consequences of global change. Both programs overlap in seeking an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental change-related issues. ORCC is centered on climate and organisms whereas BoCP is centered on community, ecosystem, and phylogenetic-level patterns and processes. There is room for BoCP projects that get down to organismal level processes and ORCC projects that scale up to ecosystem processes. For example, successful ORCC projects could focus on a single species to gain deep insights into mechanisms that confer adaptation or maladaptation to changing climates that could then be generalized and applied, but successful BoCP proposals would require analyses of biodiversity more broadly.

Do ORCC proposals have to be a multi-PI or collaborative?

Proposals do not need to be multi-PI or collaborative. You can submit your proposal as an individual. However, since cross-disciplinary projects that take on aspects that require diverse skill sets are encouraged, we expect that many proposals will be collaboratives.

If we’re looking at climate change effects on multiple biological scales such as individuals, populations, and communities but not explicitly considering feedback between these scales, would this sink a proposal?

Feedback between scales is not a requirement. The proposal will be judged on its merits and how it integrates research from organisms with eco-evolutionary components to improve our understanding and prediction of biological responses to climate change.

Can you describe what is meant by ‘plan or predictive framework’ in our broader impacts? Can project results go into an earth system model?

We are looking for something that goes beyond statements such as “these data might have implications for x, y, & z”. Proposals should have broader impacts that are closer to actual translation of the results. Some examples include, but are not limited to, working with a conservation group, natural resource managers, or experiment station extension specialists. For example, if you develop a species distribution model that predicts a change in range of a certain species, a collaboration to mitigate negative effects of this change in range might be formed with a conservancy group that would develop strategies for assisted migration. Plant mechanistic studies may reveal genetic adaptations to warmer temperatures that could then form the basis for a plan to develop new crop varieties. These examples are a limited set, but we would love to see collaborations with applied groups, such as forestry or natural resource management teams. In summary, we’re looking for a plan that goes beyond the normal statement about the broader implications of the research.

What kind of climate change variables can be considered? Temperature is called out specifically, but can other factors be considered as well?

There are many subtleties in the variables associated with climate change. We know that CO2 increase in the atmosphere leads to increasing temperatures. So, relevant climate change research may include CO2, temperature, changes in precipitation such as more frequent drought, or extreme events that change in duration and frequency as a consequence of changing global temperature and circulation patterns. In addition, many of the indirect effects of climate change certainly fall into the research foci of this solicitation. For example, relating an abiotic factor to climate change would likely be a fit to this solicitation.However, we would probably rule out factors like habitat alteration or habitat destruction.

What types of societal outcomes/challenges are considered applied enough? At some level, preservation of species/communities/ecosystems in and of itself represents a challenge to society. How will the panel strike a balance between broader and more specific (within communities, within ecosystems) societal challenges?

The scientific community participating in the review panels will help to determine the balance between broader and more specific societal challenges, and what is applied enough. Panelists will be asked to address these questions for each proposal they review. The salient point is that we are looking for more specifics than we may typically see in the broader impacts of proposals that come into core programs.  The solicitation is calling for broader impact plans that go beyond the statement ‘this could be helpful in our understanding of how organisms are going to respond’. We are seeking to stimulate efforts to mitigate the negative outcomes of any predictions based on mechanisms of response, that stem from the research.

Will ORCC consider a focus on microbes and microbiome and their influence on plant communities? What about agricultural systems, will these systems be considered?

Both of these systems are appropriate for the solicitation. For agricultural systems, ORCC proposals should be focused on organisms and mechanisms in response to climate change in any ecosystem. It will depend on how you’re using the agricultural production system. If you’re looking at the basic mechanistic responses of a species of plant or an animal, and then predicting how those responses will translate to future climate change or even current climate change, then that would be appropriate. The focus of the research should be developing a basic understanding that can be applied to other systems, hopefully outside of agricultural systems. However, if your primary goal is to improve productivity of maize in specific areas, then this might not be appropriate for ORCC. 

Please follow the link for more information about ORCC, email addresses for participating program officers, and for additional questions/answers from a recent ORCC webinar. Applicants are strongly encouraged to send a 1-2 page synopsis to program officers in ORCC to determine the suitability of their work for this opportunity.

Please join us on February 17th, 2022 for our next IOS Virtual Office Hour when we will be visited by program officers from our other Biology Directorate Divisions.