MBL's Josh Rosenthal Receives Kavli Exploration Award, "Neurobiology & Changing Ecosystems"
Seven international researchers, including MBL Senior Scientist Joshua Rosenthal, are recipients of Neurobiology and Changing Ecosystems Kavli Exploration Awards, receiving $3.7M for three different projects. The Kavli Foundation announced the awards at the Society for Neuroscience conference this week.
The projects will pursue novel investigations into how nervous systems may enable organisms (cephalopods, in Rosenthal's project) to adapt to environmental challenges, including warming oceans, extreme weather events such as heatwaves, and other environmental perturbations that may have influences on neurophysiology and behavior.
“With these awards, we are catalyzing the exploration of cellular, molecular, and circuit-level mechanisms that govern how nervous systems respond to the accelerated pace of change in our world,” remarked Amy Bernard, director of life sciences at The Kavli Foundation. “These ambitious research projects reflect new approaches to explore how the brain functions and provide a new lens through which to elucidate the mechanisms underlying neural resilience and adaptation.”
Rosenthal and his co-investigators, listed below, will explore the ability of cephalopds to adjust to low oxygen levels in the environment - a crucial factor in their survival in the face of aquatic pollution - through RNA editing. The award period is 2023-2027.
The coleoid cephalopods (squid, octopus, and cuttlefish) have the largest brains among invertebrates and demonstrate extremely high behavioral complexity. Rosenthal, along with collaborators Eli Eisenberg at Tel Aviv University, Emma Hammarlund at Lund University and Matthew Birk at St. Francis University, are studying how these creatures adapt to environmental changes.
In previous work, they discovered that cephalopods use a genetic process to modify neural proteins, called RNA editing, which helps them rapidly adjust to different conditions such as environmental temperature changes. Now, with the Kavli award, these investigators will explore the role of this process with other environmental perturbations that may impact cephalopod neurophysiology and behavior.
This global group of investigators will explore how RNA editing is involved in cephalopods’ ability to tolerate low oxygen levels, which occurs frequently in nearshore waters because of agricultural and effluent wastes. Understanding neural adaptability to oxygen levels is a crucial factor for cephalopod survival in the face of aquatic pollution and may shed light on other ways that oxygen levels and brain function are linked.
The Kavli Foundation launched support for exploration in the emerging field of neurobiology and changing ecosystems in 2022. In August 2023, the foundation announced a multi-year initiative to catalyze research investigation into how neural processes – including molecular, cellular, and circuit-level mechanisms – are impacted by or resilient to changing environments.
The foundation is also proud to partner with the Grass Foundation to support Kavli-Grass Fellows, early-career scientists who spend 14 weeks at the Marine Biological Laboratory pursuing independent research projects in this field.
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.