New EEID and LTER Solicitations


The new Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) solicitation is live. The scope of the new solicitation has been expanded to include ocean systems as well as a new international partnership with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in the UK. The deadline to submit your full proposal to EEID is November 20th, 2019.

The Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program has just released a solicitation for a New Urban LTER site (19-584). The Urban deadline for preliminary proposals is December 4th, 2019.

Visit the program webpage and updated FAQs for more information.

Meet DEB: Ford Ballantyne and Diana Pilson


ford.jpg

Ford Ballantyne

What’s your name and role here at DEB? My Name is Ford Ballantyne, and I am a rotating Program Officer with the Ecosystem Sciences Cluster.

Where did you go to school? I earned a BS in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my MS in Statistics at the University of New Mexico, and my PhD in Biology at the University of New Mexico.

Where is your home institution? University of Georgia.

Tell us about your research. I use a combination of theoretical and empirical approaches to understand how smaller scale processes generate whole ecosystem phenomena. I am particularly interested in linking microbial metabolism to biogeochemical cycles. Past and ongoing projects include studying the influence of environmental conditions on the decomposition of organic matter in terrestrial and aquatic environments, linking whole community patterns of gene expression to changes in the composition of dissolved organic carbon, and quantifying the response of whole stream metabolism to variation in environmental conditions across latitude.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I was drawn to the Program Officer position because I wanted to be part of the collaborative atmosphere at NSF and to serve the broader scientific community. I like helping others succeed, and I like to contribute to collective endeavors. NSF is a great place to do both.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I look forward to learning about all the research that is supported by the Ecosystems Cluster and DEB as a whole, and to contributing to discussions about new funding initiatives and future directions for ecological science. I love to read science and talk about ideas, and I am eager to read the many proposals that the Ecosystems Cluster will review and to be a part of the intellectually stimulating discussion of proposed research during panels.

Pilson for blog.jpg

Diana Pilson

What’s your name and role here at DEB? My name is Diana Pilson, and I am a rotating Program Officer in the Population and Community Ecology Cluster.

Where did you go to school? I earned a B.S. in Biology from Tufts University and my Ph.D. in Zoology from Duke University.

Where is your home institution? My home institution is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I am in the School of Biological Sciences.

Tell us about your research. I am a plant evolutionary ecologist, and I am broadly interested in how environmental variation and species interactions affect (and are in turn affected by) the outcomes of natural selection. Over my career I have worked on the population biology and evolution of plant-insect interactions (from both the plant and insect perspective), potential fitness effects and ecological consequences of the escape of transgenic insect and virus resistance into wild populations, and effects of seed production and disturbance on local colonization and extinction dynamics. I recently completed a several-year stint as an Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. I am now excited to be doing science again, and I just initiated a study of flower color and demography in Calochortus eurycarpus (Liliaceae).

Why do you want to serve with NSF? In the Dean’s Office I enjoyed both the collaborative nature of the work and the bigger-scale view I had of the University. Here at NSF I am expecting a similar experience. The collaborative work will be fun: over the last 20+ years I have served on many NSF panels, and every time I learned a lot, met interesting and smart people, and been impressed with the care and thought that everyone put into proposal evaluation. And, I am looking forward to getting a bigger scale look at (and contributing to) current and future directions in ecology and evolution.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I expect that contributing to the future of our science from inside NSF will be challenging, enlightening, and gratifying. Plus, living in Alexandria, far from the heartland, for a while will be an exciting change of pace.

 

CNH2 LOIs Due Soon


While I’m sure those investigators planning on submitting to the CNH2 program this year are well on their way, this is a short reminder that the due date for the Letter of Intent (LOI) is September 17th, 2019.

If you submitted a LOI to the December 2018 deadline and are planning to submit one to the September 17, 2019 deadline, please note that the system retained your earlier submission and issues a warning that you have already submitted when you are trying to submit again.  Please IGNORE this warning and submit your new LOI.  The system lets you submit another.

For those unfamiliar with the program, CNH2 supports research projects that advance basic scientific understanding of integrated socio-environmental systems and the interactions (dynamics, processes, and feedbacks) within and among the environmental (biological, physical and chemical) and human (“socio”) (economic, social, political, or behavioral) components of such a system.

Be sure and check out the solicitation for more information and contact the managing Program Officers for any additional questions.

NEON Webinar


From our friends over at the DBI blog,

“The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced its intention to carry out a competition to manage the Operations and Maintenance of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 19-080) announcing this decision:

  • provides general information on NEON,
  • communicates that NSF anticipates initiating the competition,
  • provides information on provisional goals,
  • outlines a timeline for the competition, and
  • invites comments and questions from eligible organizations interested in this competition (submit via neon-bot@nsf.gov).

NSF will be hosting a webinar on September 11th at 2pm regarding the planned competition for operation and management of NEON. Individuals, teams, and organizations interested in submitting proposals should try to participate.

This webinar will discuss the timeline for executing the competition for the management of NEON Operations and Maintenance. It will highlight key decision points by NSF and identify critical dates for activities related to the competition. The webinar will also provide information on the post-award oversight requirements for awards managed through cooperative agreements (CAs). Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer period.

For further details about the competition, please consult the NEON Program webpage and DCL (NSF 19-080).

For more details about NEON, please consult the NEON Project webpage.”

Meet DEB: Chris Balakrishnan


cris-b.png

We didn’t hire the bird, we hired the person holding the bird. Photo Credit: Rhett Butler (different Rhett Butler)

What’s your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Chris Balakrishnan and I am a rotating Program Officer with the Evolutionary Processes Cluster.

Where did you go to school?

I received my undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania and my Ph.D. in biology from Boston University.

Where is your home institution?

East Carolina University.

Tell us about your research.

I’ll admit to being a bit of a dabbler. The main themes in my research are birds & their DNA (and RNA). Beyond that I’m interested in fundamental aspects of how genomes evolve and how species form, but also more mechanistic questions about how the brain and immune system function in ecological and evolutionary contexts. I primarily study birds as they offer wonderful opportunities to study the evolution of complex social behaviors. I’m particularly interested in those species that display unusual (wacky) behaviors. These avian oddities provide an opportunity to understand evolutionary changes in behavior. As an example, some of my work focuses on brood parasitic birds. Unlike most birds, brood parasitic birds don’t provide any parental care to their young. Instead, they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Brood parasitism has evolved seven times independently in birds and I’m interested in how and why this happened. The hope is that these studies will inform our understanding of the causes of variation in parental care behavior and the processes that lead to major behavioral innovations.

Why do you want to serve with NSF?

Prior to interviewing for my position here, I hadn’t really thought much about serving as a Program Officer. What had struck me though was that colleagues that had spent time here were uniform in that they truly loved the experience. Upon interviewing I really began to see why they enjoyed NSF so much and my interview convinced me that this was going to be a wonderful experience. I expect that being part of the proposal review process will be highly rewarding, and I really look forward to interacting with a large group of colleagues.  I’m excited to work with the dynamic and diverse group of people here and to gain this new experience. Selfishly, I know that exposure to all of the exciting work being done at NSF will help my research career as well. I’m also looking to complete a lifetime sweep of living in all of the major northeastern cities. In addition to New York, Philadelphia & Boston, I’m happy to add DC to the list (technically, I live in Alexandria though so maybe it doesn’t count). Baltimore, you are next!

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF?

First and foremost, I’m really looking forward to the stimulating discussions that surround the proposal review process. Additionally, however, it seems like I’m entering NSF in the midst of a lot of interesting changes aimed at enhancing integration among subdisciplines in biology. I’m truly looking forward to seeing how these and other new programs develop.

 

Writing Budget Justifications


A budget justification is the narrative that accompanies your budget and can be up to 5 pages in length. This is where investigators validate and explain the dollar amounts they requested in their line-item budget. Justifications explain pay rates and outline equipment, materials, and supplies requests. Investigators should ask themselves if their budget justifications are answering these questions;

  1. Why are these requested funds needed?
  2. How does each item in the budget help meet the proposed deliverables?
  3. How were these requested funds estimated?

The first place to start before writing any budget justification is the PAPPG. In addition to all the picky details provided there, here are three general pieces of advice that typify budgets that meet little resistance when it comes time to fund your project. The best budget justifications tend to have these things in common:

Use of Parallel Formatting with the Budget Pages

The absolute best way to organize and format your budget justification is to use the same letter and number system used in the budget template. This also helps your Program Officer locate specific items and amounts.

Using Senior Personnel as an example, your budget template will look something like this;

budget just.png

Then your budget justification for this exciting, cross-disciplinary proposal should follow this order;

A. Senior Personnel

 

  1. Pomona Sprout- Principal Investigator, # months’ work/year, list specific responsibilities and explain how she arrived at this calculation.Year 1 $$$$, Year 2 $$$$, Year 3 $$$$, Year 4 $$$$
  2. Indiana Jones- Co-Principal Investigator, # months’ work/year, list specific responsibilities and explain how he arrived at this calculation.Year 1 $$$$, Year 2 $$$$, Year 3 $$$$, Year 4 $$$$

Salaries: Time and Rates

For all personnel, show what amounts you are asking for and state how you calculated those salary amounts. Give a monthly breakdown and include any fringe rates.

If you are requesting more than two months’ salary for any senior personnel, clearly justify that the rationale fits into one of these two categories:

  1. the person has a soft money position, or
  2. the project scope requires buying out of teaching time.

Section G. Other Direct Costs

Section G is often where confusion happens. The best way to avoid confusion is to start in the PAPPG. It clearly defines which costs should live in lines G1-G6. Some key points to keep in mind are;

  • Do not include funds for Materials and Supplies under Participant Support Costs (section F), even if those items will be used by students or other trainees. List them under G.1.
  • Section G.3 (Consultant Services): If you are using the consultant category, Program Officers may request additional information as to each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service.
  • Section G.5 (Subawards): For each subaward, a budget and budget narrative need to be prepared and submitted. Please make sure that the subaward budgets list the subawardee institution and PI (and not the information of the lead proposal again).
  • Section G.6 (Other Direct Costs – Other) is a catch-all category that will always attract scrutiny, so especially for this section be sure to be explicit about what you’re requesting, why, and how much it will cost. Also,
  • Graduate student tuition goes in G.6. Other.

In Conclusion

Justify everything. Assume nothing. If necessary, clarify the NSF budget guidelines with your Authorized Organizational Representative prior to submitting a proposal. This is especially important for rare or unusual expenditures, such as foreign subawards or consultancies or salary requests beyond two months for any senior personnel. It’s also important for normal expenditures like travel.

For example, don’t just write, “I need $8000 for international travel to go to two meetings in Europe.” PIs should use an airfare estimator and show the breakdown of costs.

Again, make sure your Program Officer understands how you came up with the total number you’re requesting in each category. There’s no harm in adding a table to show calculations. And this may seem obvious, but make sure the numbers in the budget justification match the numbers in the budget.

Finally, if most of your work is off-campus, check with your Authorized Organizational Representative about whether the off-campus indirect cost rate applies. Different institutions have different policies on when the off-campus rate is appropriate.

For additional tips on preparing an award budget, visit our friends over at the MCB blog.