The US National Academies of Science are urging the National Science Foundation to mount a big new comparative program of ecosystem-based genomic studies of several arctic and Antarctic organisms. The project's centerpiece is a proposed Polar Genome Science Initiative, according to "Frontiers in Polar Biology in the Genomic Era," a National Research Council (NRC) report released Friday. The study was requested jointly by NSF's Office of Polar Programs and its Biology Directorate.

The initiative's sweeping purpose would be "to facilitate genome analysis of polar organisms" and support research on their physiology, biochemistry, and their function in the ecosystems. In addition to the usual attractions of basic research, proponents say, the plan has practical applications that range from biotechnology (understanding hibernation in black bears and Arctic ground squirrels could aid in preserving organs for transplant) to tracking the effects of global climate change (cold-tolerant Polar organisms tend to be...

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