Meet DEB: Kari Segraves, Matthew Fujita, and Kirsten Schwarz

Name and Cluster: Kari Segraves, Population and Community Ecology

Education: Earned a B.S. and M.S. from Washington State University and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University

Home Institution: Syracuse University

Tell us about your research: I am an evolutionary ecologist, and my interests focus on understanding how interactions between different species affect their ecology and evolution. In my lab group, we have been studying mutually beneficial interactions between species because they are critical to the formation and structure of ecological communities. Species that participate in mutualisms trade resources or services in exchange for commodities that are difficult for them to obtain on their own. We have been using both lab studies of synthetic mutualisms and field experiments in natural systems to understand how mutualisms persist and evolve in species rich communities. This work is revealing that the community context of a mutualism is important and it can affect how these interactions persist ecologically, particularly in the presence of species that take advantage of the rewards offered by mutualists. Our other major area of research examines how whole genome duplication in plants impacts their interactions with herbivorous insects, pollinators, and belowground mutualisms with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. This research is showing that whole genome duplication can affect aspects of a plant’s physiology and ecology that alters its interactions with other species, suggesting that this common mode of plant species may have far reaching effects in communities.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? NSF has made a huge difference in my career by supporting me as a graduate student, postdoc, and professor. I certainly would not be where I am today without having received this support. Serving at NSF is my chance to give back to this wonderful community and (hopefully!) make a positive, lasting impact on the careers of up and coming scientists.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I am excited to work at NSF because I will get to learn about novel research at the forefront of science. I have also been looking forward to working with the awesome team at NSF to help PIs do their best possible work and to foster inclusion and diversity in STEM.

Name and Cluster: Matthew Fujita, Systematics and Biodiversity Science

Education: Earned a B.S. from University of California, Davis and a PhD from University of California, Berkeley

Home Institution: The University of Texas at Arlington

Tell us about your research: My lab studies the evolutionary genomics and systematics of reptiles and amphibians. Advances in genome sequencing technologies and analytical approaches are providing ever-increasing power to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape the distributions of individual populations within species but also the branching processes between species. By leveraging these tools, we investigate the phylogeography and speciation dynamics in a multiple of lizards, snakes, frogs, and toads. We also have NSF-funded projects to look at the evolution of sensory systems in frogs and lizards – an exciting new trajectory for the lab! We can also leverage the incredible organismal diversity of reptiles and amphibians to help us understand genome evolution in ways that are intractable with mammal and bird systems. For instance, my lab is very interested in the genomic consequences of parthenogenesis, which is a mode of unisexual reproduction that naturally exists in squamates, but not in mammals and rarely in birds. Herps are just too cool!

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I have been on several panels, and every single one (even when virtual) was an extremely enjoyable and educational experience. I was able to see the great research happening across the country but also hear all the different perspectives on so many aspects of science from our panel discussions. Panel service also showed me the deep commitment that DEB has in supporting researchers. As a Program Officer, I want to dive deeper into the process of facilitating research across the country and to learn the policies that make that happen. Also, DEB is such a welcoming place!

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF?I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in DEB and absorbing their wisdom! I am also looking forward to learning about all of the amazing research that is happening around the country.

Name and Cluster: Kirsten Schwarz, Ecosystem Science Cluster

Education: Earned a B.A. from College of the Atlantic and a PhD from Rutgers University

Home Institution:UCLA

Tell us about your research:I’m an interdisciplinary researcher that studies social-ecological systems in cities. My research aims to understand how the ways in which we build and shape cities impacts environment, health, and justice. I study environmental hazards (like lead-contaminated soils) and amenities (like trees), what drives their distribution, and how their distribution interfaces with issues of equity and justice. Community engagement and science communication are important aspects of my work that have influenced my current research on understanding how designed solutions can maximize desired ecosystem services (like stormwater retention and extreme heat mitigation).

Why do you want to serve with NSF? Of course, I’m curious to learn more about how the NSF works, but my main motivation for serving was to dig a little deeper into how the co-production of science is, and can be, funded. In my experience, the ways in which we fund and support co-produced research can have a major impact on its success. I’m intrigued by NSF’s ongoing work on co-production and am excited to learn more about how we can support pathways towards equitably funded co-produced research. Finally, the NSF has supported my career at critical times of transition, and I look forward to paying it forward.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I’m looking forward to connecting scientists doing great ecosystem science to the resources they need. I’m especially looking forward to connecting with new PIs and sharing the programs that can support and expand their work and career. Most of all, I’m looking forward to learning from new colleagues and playing a small part in supporting great science with the broadest possible impacts.   

Did you miss it? The Partnership to Advance Conservation Science and Practice (PACSP) Webinar Highlights 

Check out this repost from our friends at IOS here or below:

PACSP hosted a program Webinar on 22 Aug 2022.  The webinar featured some highlights of the program solicitation followed by Program Directors answering questions from the audience.  A recording of the slide presentation shown at the webinar is available from the PACSP Program page. Some of the questions posed via email are answered below.  

  1. Will the program/solicitation be offered in future years? 
    This solicitation is currently a one-time offering associated with the new partnership between the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation (the foundation) and the NSF.  We are certainly hopeful there will be future offerings, but we simply do not know yet. 
     
  2. Partnerships – who can serve as a research partner [e.g., non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profit research institutions]? Who should submit the proposal to NSF (the research partner)? 
    Generally speaking, we expect the submitting organization will be the research partner. If you are an organization that regularly submits proposals to the NSF, then you are very likely eligible to apply to this solicitation. 
  3. Partnerships – who can serve as a conservation practitioner/action partner? Federal and State agencies? University extension offices? Private organizations? 
    The solicitation is very specific about this: the conservation action partner must meet the following requirement (quoted from the solicitation):  
    “Eligible entities who can serve as conservation action partners and receive an award from the foundation include: Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations; Units of state or local government; State colleges or universities; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes. All supported organizations must review and agree to the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Grantee Code of Conduct found here: https://pgafamilyfoundation.org/_ui/img/pgafoundation/Grantee_Code_of_Conduct.pdf. Eligible institutions do not include foreign organizations.” 
     
  4. Partnerships – can an organization serve as both research and conservation action partner (e.g., a museum, zoo, or botanical garden with a research department)? 
    An organization that meets both eligibility criteria and supports both research and conservation action can act in both roles in the proposal.  Please note that they should still follow the specific guidance regarding the submission of the research and conservation action budgets. 
     
  5. What is meant by support for “conservation science and science-informed conservation practice in the United States”? 
    The solicitation can only support research and conservation action activities that take place in the U.S. or associated Territories. 
     
  6. Should the research component of the project be ecology/evolution-focused research? What about research focused on the socio-economic, decision-making, marine, etc.? 
    The program seeks to support biological conservation research primarily. If the project goals are enhanced by complementary research in socio-economics or decision-making, then the proposal should make clear why those additions strengthen the project.  Studies in any biome can be supported, including marine research and conservation. 
     
  7. Given that much of the applied aspects of the conservation implementation and evaluation would fall under “Broader Impacts”, how extensively would you advise PIs to develop other aspects of the Broader Impacts plan? 
    These projects are unusual in that the lines between Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts are blurred.  Both sections must be present, and the solicitation is specific about what content should be included in each.  The project will be evaluated as a whole, but certainly one criterion is that the project should “describe an integrated approach in which the outcomes of basic research directly inform the design or implementation of science-focused conservation activities and that those activities are assessed or evaluated to track their success.” 
     
  8. How best can the project’s third component (a plan for on-going evaluation or assessment of the success of the conservation action) be implemented? Funding is for 3 years but assessing conservation action results could take much longer; what is expected? 
    While we appreciate that the longer-range effects of any conservation action may take years to manifest, we expect that some useful metrics can be identified which will inform conservation science and efficacy within the 3-year tenure of the award. 
     
  9. Budget and Timeline – Is there a minimum or maximum budget? What is the expected range of funding for each project? What is the expected division of funding between research and conservation action partners? What are the anticipated start dates?  
    There is no budget cap. However, the total program budget is $8 million (shared equally between the NSF and the foundation). There is no fixed division of costs between the research and conservation action partners; however, successful projects will certainly be those where an equal partnership between these two components is reflected in the proposal. 
     
  10. How will money be awarded for the research and conservation partners (e.g., separately to each partner? Through a subaward?)? 
    The funds will be awarded separately to each partner; the NSF will support the research budget and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will support the conservation action budget. The conservation action partner budget should be submitted as a supplementary document, as stipulated in the solicitation. 
     
  11. Review and evaluation process – how will proposals be reviewed? Through the normal NSF peer review/ panel review process? 
    The proposals will be reviewed according to the NSF’s Merit Review principles and criteria by a program-specific panel of experts with expertise relevant to the projects proposed. 

Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Biology  

Join us Monday, September 12th, 1 – 2pm ET for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an overview on the Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) program (NSF 22-623). Representatives from DEB and the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) programs will be available for questions. To participate, please use the registration link below. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so we suggest you also sign up for blog notifications.   

REGISTER HERE TO PARTICIPATE

If you can’t make it to this or any future office hours, don’t worry! Come back to the blog afterwards, as we post recaps and the presentation slides of all office hour sessions. Visit our Office Hours homepage for slideshows and recaps of past topics. 

Virtual Office Hours are on the second Monday of every month from 1 – 2pm ET. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics (subject to change). Be sure to add them to your calendars and register ahead of time.       

Upcoming Office Hour Topics:                      

  • October 17: How to Write a Great Proposal 
  • November 14: Opportunities for Research in Climate Change 
  • December 12: Mid – Career Advancement Solicitation   

Meet DEB: Jason West and Kimberly Hughes

Name and Cluster: Jason West, Ecosystem Science

Education: Earned a BS from Utah State University and a PhD from University of Georgia

Home Institution: Texas A&M University

Tell us about your research: Broadly, my group seeks answers to questions about plant-environment interactions by conducting research that spans the disciplines of both plant physiological and ecosystem ecology. Our work has recently included studies of plant functional traits in Brazil and Mexico, as well as explorations of genome-trait relationships in loblolly pine water use strategies. Ongoing projects explore functional characteristics among C4 grass species, vegetation change and its effects on groundwater recharge, and savanna carbon cycle responses to land management strategies. We also collaborate on a variety of projects that utilize stable isotopes, including projects related to paleoreconstruction, and have ongoing interests in spatial isotope questions (isoscapes).

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I have been interested in serving for a number of years now. I find the creativity and accomplishments of my fellow researchers invigorating and am excited about the prospect of participating directly in the federal government’s support of the research enterprise in the United States. Scientific research contributes to the broader well-being of humanity, and it is an honor to be part of this process as a Program Director.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? All of it! (OK, maybe not all of the paperwork) I am excited to get to know my fellow program officers and all the people at NSF who make this amazing organization work. I also look forward to interacting with reviewers, panelists and PIs, as I do my part to help NSF fund research that expands knowledge and understanding, while supporting the careers of researchers and their institutions around the country.

Name and Cluster: Kim Hughes, Evolutionary Processes Cluster

Education: Earned a BA from Rice University and MS & PhD from University of Chicago

Home Institution: Florida State University

Tell us about your research: I’m interested in the maintenance of genetic and phenotypic diversity within populations of organisms. For example, in one of the species I work with (Trinidadian guppies) males, but not females, are highly variable for body color.  If I collect 15 males from a single pool in a Trinidadian stream, every male will have a unique color pattern. Remarkably, nearly all that diversity is genetically based.  My lab uses lab and field experiments, quantitative genetics, transcriptomics and population genomics to understand how natural selection interacts with other processes (e.g., mutation) to promote and maintain genetic diversity in ecologically-relevant traits.  We are also interested in the role of social interactions in generating and maintaining diversity, and so some of our work overlaps with areas funded by IOS. We use fish (guppies and other livebearing Poeciliids) and fruit flies as our focal organisms.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I’ve been applying for (and occasionally receiving) awards from NSF since my graduate student days. I thought it was about time to learn more about the other side of the process!  I also see it as a way of giving back something to the agency that has supported me all these years.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I am looking forward to learning about a lot of exciting work outside my own subfield and to seeing how science funding policy is developed. I also want to better understand how NSF approaches issues around diversity and inclusion. Most importantly, I look forward to learning from all the great folks in DEB!

8/8/22 Virtual Office Hours Recap – International Collaboration

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on August 8, 2022. Program Officers along with representatives from the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) provided information on international collaborations and the funding opportunities supported in DEB. We host these office hours 1-2pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters are present at each Virtual Office Hour, so a wide range of scientific perspectives are represented.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 22-1

DEB NSF webpage

If you were unable to attend, here are some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:

 Q: Is there anything in NSF comparable to the PASI (Pan-American Advanced Studies Institute)?

A: The NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) no longer has funding opportunities along the lines of PASI.

Q: What general advice do you have for PIs for getting permits and the permitting process?

International work often requires more consideration of permits required to access sites, take samples, work in sensitive habitats, or study endangered or threatened species. In all those cases, expect to need more time and planning to get permits in place. Ultimately, the awardee institution is responsible for obtaining all necessary permits, but at the proposal and award recommendation stages you as the PI will want to provide evidence that your project is tenable as proposed and that you can obtain all necessary permits to allow the work to proceed. Research on live vertebrate animals requires an approved animal care and use protocol. The animal care and use protocol can be pending at the time of proposal submission but should be in place before an award recommendation is made.

If you expect your work might itself create environmental impact, intersect with sensitive habitats or threatened species, etc., it may be wise to reach out to a program director at the proposal preparation stage.

Q: What are some reasons for NSF providing funding to foreign persons or entities are deemed insufficient in explanation?

A: Please consult the NSF Proposal and Award Policy and Procedures Guide (PAPPG – https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg22_1/index.jsp).

NSF rarely provides direct funding support to foreign organizations. NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving U.S. and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort.

In some cases, however, where the proposer considers the foreign organization or foreign individual’s involvement to be essential to the project and proposes to provide funding through the NSF budget (through a subaward or consultant arrangement), the proposer must explain why support from the foreign counterpart’s local sources is not feasible and why the foreign organization or foreign individual can carry out the activity more effectively than a U.S. organization or U.S. individual. In addition, the proposed activity must demonstrate how one or more of the following conditions have been met:

The foreign organization or foreign individual contributes unique expertise, organizational capability, facilities, data resources, and/or access to a geographic location not generally available to U.S. investigators (or which would require significant effort or time to duplicate); and/or

The foreign organization or foreign individual offers significant science and engineering education, training, or research opportunities to the U.S.

Such information must be included in any proposal to NSF, including new and renewal proposals. The information must be included in the project description section of the proposal. The box for “Funding of a Foreign Organization or Foreign Individual” must be checked on the Cover Sheet if the proposal includes funding for a foreign organization or foreign individual.

Q: What happens to an application if the justification for international collaborative funds is deemed insufficient—is the grant not funded, or is the budget for the international collaboration cut?

A: If a proposal recommended for funding includes NSF funding going directly to a foreign person or entity and the justification for that expenditure is not sufficient, the program director will likely reach out to the project’s principal investigator to determine the best course of action.

Q: Is there any difference for requesting funding for wage labor or technician positions and supporting an international Co-PI?

A:  NSF requires greater justification for any funding going to a foreign person or entity through a sub-award or consultancy.

Consultancies are considered experts contributing specified knowledge or expertise, whereas a sub-award is made to an organization or institution, typically to support another co-investigator. Justification is always important for any plans to spend money internationally.

Q: Beyond having different boxes to check on the cover page, does NSF view an international campus of a U.S. Institution of higher education differently than a completely international organization?

A: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a U.S. institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the U.S. campus. Such information must be included in the project description. The box for “Funding of an International Branch Campus of a U.S. IHE” must be checked.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog.

Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hours will be held September 12, 2022, from 1-2pm Eastern Time and the topic will be: Postdoc Research Fellowship.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:                   

September 12: Postdoc Research Fellowship

October 17*: How to Write a Great Proposal

November 14: Opportunities for Research in Climate Change

December 12: Mid-Career Advancement Solicitation

*date change due to Federal Holiday

Webinar: Partnership to Advance Conservation Science and Practice (PACSP)

NSF and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation are partnering to support a new program, to be administered by NSF, that will support conservation science and science-informed conservation practice in the United States. The objective of the PACSP Program is to support conservation research that investigates organismal biology, ecology, and/or evolution and is designed to contribute to the development and implementation of evidence-based activities and/or technology solutions to advance biodiversity conservation. 

The cognizant Program Officers will be hosting a webinar Monday August 22, 2022  1pm-2pm EDT to discuss the Partnership to Advance Conservation Science and Practice solicitation, NSF 22-613. To participate, please register, using the link below.

REGISTER HERE 

Contacts
Matthew D. Carling mcarling@nsf.gov
Colette Marie St. Mary cstmary@nsf.gov

AccelNet: International Network of Networks to address global challenges

 AccelNet is a program managed by NSF’s Office of International Science and engineering (OISE) that facilitates the coordination and planning of international research on a global challenge that requires coordinated international efforts. AccelNet projects may be from any scientific or engineering discipline that NSF funds and may take place in almost every country. AccelNet currently funds several projects involving the biological sciences, including projects on Arctic permafrost, marine metabolism, montane ecosystems, food-energy-water nexus, sustainability, bat biodiversity, and neurobiology. We would welcome additional proposals exploring global challenges related to the biological sciences.

 AccelNet is similar to a Research Coordination Network (RCN) in terms of the kinds of activities it funds but differs from the RCN in its size and scope.  Whereas an RCN is one network of researchers, AccelNet is a geographically distributed federation of networks, or a Network of Networks (NoN).  A NoN uses the principles of Team Science to work together effectively, often across many time zones, in multiple languages, and incorporating many disciplines.

Accelnet differs from the OISE PIRE program in that PIRE funds international research collaborations, while Accelnet funds the connections among existing research networks to identify and coordinate efforts to address knowledge gaps and research needs.

Be sure and visit the AccelNet Program page for more information, including links to a webinar about the program and upcoming office hours. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of the cognizant Program Officers, shown below. Full proposals are due October 10, 2022. 

Karen Lipsklips@nsf.gov(703) 292-5133OD/OISE
Robyn Smythrsmyth@nsf.gov(703) 292-2996BIO/DEB
Kara HooverKCHoover@nsf.gov(703) 292-2235OD/OISE

Now Hiring: Deputy Division Director!

The Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation is seeking a Deputy Division Director (DDD) for the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB). This is a Senior Executive Service (SES) position within the Federal government, which can be filled as either a Federal employee or as a rotator (Intergovernmental Personnel Act, 1-3 years), as described at https://go.usa.gov/xSMvp.

The DDD plays a key role in DEB’s senior management, contributing to science planning, management, and program budget allocation and commitment for the Division. The DDD advises and aids the Division Director and is a member of the broader senior management team in the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

DEB supports research and training on evolutionary and ecological processes acting at the level of populations, species, communities, and ecosystems. You can read more about DEB’s structure and mission at https://www.nsf.gov/bio/deb/about.jsp.

Ideas Lab: Engineering Technologies to Advance Underwater Sciences (ETAUS)

An Ideas Lab is an intensive meeting that brings together multiple diverse perspectives to focus on finding innovative, cross-disciplinary solutions to a problem identified by NSF as a grand challenge.

The aim of the Engineering Technologies to Advance Underwater Sciences (ETAUS) Ideas Lab is to bring together experts from diverse scientific and engineering backgrounds to develop novel and innovative solutions that enable real-time and reliable sensing, communications, localization, navigation, and mapping of aquatic environments. These wide-ranging environments include glaciers, rivers, lakes, and oceans, for scientific research and economic development in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.

Ideas Lab participants, selected from preliminary proposal applications, will form new teams at the meeting to develop full proposals that address the identified sensing and communication challenges. This Ideas Lab will seek and prioritize proposals which will measurably increase the diversity and participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Be sure and visit the ETAUS program page for more information and please don’t hesitate to contact one of the cognizant BIO Program Officers, shown below. Preliminary proposals are due September 19, 2022 and the Ideas Lab is scheduled for November 8-10.

Robyn Smythrsmyth@nsf.gov(703) 292-2996BIO/DEB
Francisco B. Moorefbmoore@nsf.gov(703) 292-5376BIO/DEB

Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: International Collaboration  

Join us Monday, August 8th, 1 – 2pm ET for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will be joined by representatives from the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) to provide an overview on international collaborations and the different funding opportunities available in DEB. Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs will be available for questions. To participate, please use the registration link below. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so we suggest you also sign up for blog notifications.   

  

REGISTER HERE TO PARTICIPATE

If you can’t make it to this or any future office hours, don’t worry! Come back to the blog afterwards, as we post recaps and the presentation slides of all office hour sessions. Visit our Office Hours homepage for slideshows and recaps of past topics. 

Virtual Office Hours are on the second Monday of every month from 1 – 2pm ET. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics (subject to change). Be sure to add them to your calendars and register ahead of time.       

Upcoming Office Hour Topics:                     

  • September 12: Postdoc Research Fellowship 
  • October 17: How to Write a Great Proposal 
  • November 14: Opportunities for Research in Climate Change 
  • December 12: Mid – Career Advancement Solicitation