As we enter the twenty-first century, the polar biological sciences stand well poised to address numerous important issues, many of which were unrecognized as little as 10 years ago. From the effects of global warming on polar organisms to the potential for life in subglacial Lake Vostok, the opportunities to advance our understanding of polar ecosystems are unprecedented. The era of genome-enabled biology is upon us, and new technologies will allow us to examine polar biological questions of unprecedented scope and to do so with extraordinary depth and precision.
The National Plant Genome Initiative was launched in 1998 as a long-term project to explore DNA structure and function in plants so that useful properties of plants can be understood, improved, and ultimately harnessed to address national needs, including agriculture, nutrition, energy and waste reduction. Experts in the community were asked to consider how to build on current accomplishments in order to address major questions in plant biology and to make recommendations for objectives for the next five-year phase of the Initiative.
Recognizing the important contributions that genomic analysis can make to agriculture, production and companion animal science, evolutionary biology, and human health with respect to the creation of models for genetic disorders, the National Academies convened a group of individuals to plan a public workshop that would: (1) assess these contributions; (2) identify potential research directions for existing genomics programs; and (3) highlight the opportunities of a coordinated, multi-species genomics effort for the science and policymaking communities. Their efforts culminated in a workshop
On August 16, 2000, the Board on Life Sciences held a forum on "Environmental
Contamination, Biotechnology, and the Law: The Impact of Emerging Genomic Information." The purpose of the forum was to explore the legal implications of current and developing biotechnology approaches to evaluating potential human health and environmental effects caused by exposure to environmental contaminants and to cleaning up contaminated areas. The forum brought together scientists from academe, government, and industry and members of the legal community, including lawyers and judges, to discuss the
How small can a free-living organism be? On the surface, this question is straightforward-in principle, the smallest cells can be identified and measured. But understanding what factors determine this lower limit, and addressing the host of other questions that follow on from this knowledge, require a fundamental understanding of the chemistry and ecology of cellular life. The recent report of evidence for life in a martian meteorite and the prospect of searching for biological signatures in intelligently chosen samples from Mars and elsewhere bring a new immediacy to such questions. How do