NSF approved 1.2 million dollars for a unique and visionary idea: collect 12 million seeds and store them in seed banks for years to come. And while storing seeds for the future doesn't sounds so different from what other groups have already done, where Project Baseline differs is that this seed bank is not only a conservation measure--preserving natural genetic variation from plant populations for the future--but also an opportunity to track the effects of changing climate on the direction and rate of evolution in these species.
This idea was first explored in "The Resurrection Initiative: Storing Ancestral Genotypes to Capture Evolution in Action" (Franks et al 2007). By collecting and storing seeds from both within and across populations throughout the range of a species, ancestral and descendent populations can be compared in the not too distant future. The role of adaptive evolution and range shifts can be explored through this lens. Project Baseline is a great example of how much we can learn from long-term, collaborative experiments and projects (other examples include NutNet , NCEAS), and how valuable funding such projects should be considered.