Congratulations to Julie Meachen, Ph.D., for securing the first National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to a Des Moines University faculty member. Dr. Meachen is being awarded $400,000 to support her project in Wyoming’s Natural Trap Cave in collaboration with researchers from across the globe. This project seeks to answer three major questions about the Pleistocene extinction and whether it was preceded by or concurrent with a large loss of genetic diversity in the local fauna, whether morphological changes along the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary resulted from adaptation or immigration, and finally whether these major shifts are related to climate change.
Dr. Meachen’s initial visit to the cave, an 85-foot-deep sinkhole, was supported by another external grant awarded by National Geographic with an internal grant supplied by the University. During this visit, she discovered various fossils, including those from the gray wolf, American cheetah and various raptor species ranging from 12,000 to 30,000 years old.
Dr. Meachen joined Des Moines University as an assistant professor of anatomy in July 2013, and she has been an active researcher since her arrival. Des Moines University and Dr. Meachen are grateful to the NSF for supporting her research through this grant, and we look forward to all the discoveries and advances that will be made in her field as a result.
The mission of the NSF is to support all fields of fundamental science and engineering. From astronomy to zoology, this federal agency has kept the United States at the forefront of discovery and understanding since their establishment in 1950. While many agencies may shy away from risky ideas, the NSF rewards researchers who work outside of the box and create successful collaborations and valuable projects.