Durham Grit Award, July 19

Jul. 18, 2014 @ 04:03 PM

Kathleen Pryer had a problem we suspect is not uncommon among academic researchers.

She had what she was sure would be a fruitful line of research, but she couldn’t persuade anyone to fund it.

Her goal was to sequence the genome of an aquatic plant called an Azolla fern.  The promise she saw in this was hard to convey to normal funding agencies.

“It it’s just mosses, and nobody eats mosses and ferns and those sorts of things, the they don’t want to fund that,” the Duke biology professor said. “But my problem was: How are we really going to understand the plant genome if we’re only looking at very highly derived members of the plant world?”

So Pryer crowdsourced her fund-raising.

She eventually did land a Chinese company that will underwrite the sequencing work, but she’ll use the money from the many small donors who responded to get “more polished” results.

For her creativity and persistence, we’re pleased to add this week’s Grit Award to the fruits of her campaign.