Name: Sudeep Chandra
Education: PhD in Ecology, University of California, Davis
Home Institution: University of Nevada, Reno
NSF Experience/History: I have served as a reviewer for various NSF DEB panels and as an ad hoc reviewer. I received funding from NSF as a PI, graduate student, and support some of my undergraduate student research through REU funding provided via the EPSCoR program to the University of Nevada.
Competitions I currently work on: Currently a rotating Program Director with the Ecosystems Science Cluster, I interface with the research community by discussing various solicitations and opportunities at NSF, facilitate review of research proposals submitted in the preliminary and full proposal review process, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants, CAREER, RCN, LTREB. East Asia Pacific Summer Institute, etc…. My interest in serving with the National Science Foundation was two fold. First, I believe we need to be more engaged as a scientific community (regardless of discipline) by “giving back” to our community. Second, my hope is to return to the University of Nevada to assist my colleagues and students in understanding the different opportunities for funding research and education opportunities.
Q & A
What are your study system(s) and area(s) of expertise?
I am a limnologist by training but a conservation biologist at heart. My lab tries to understand how climate, cultural eutrophication, and invasive species might alter carbon flow and food web structure in ecosystems. I write “might” because I think there is more resilience to different pulse and press disturbances than we typically measure through our snapshot field experiments in ecology. Historically I have tried to ask these types of questions from an applied restoration or conservation viewpoint, mostly in temperate, mountain lakes (Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake, Castle Lake in Northern California). Recently I have become interested in working in developing countries where there seems to be a strong interest in learning about the natural history of ecosystems but also trying to improve an understanding of the function and dynamics of ecosystems.
Describe your current IR/D activities:
When I am off on IR/D (research and development leave), I typically spend my time working on two projects. The first project is in Guatemala where my colleagues and I are trying to understand the influences of cultural eutrophication (nutrient loading resulting in increased productivity) on different aspects of ecology of Lake Atitlan, a highland mountain lake. The scientific focus of our investigations is to try and understand the heterotrophic and autotrophic balance in the lake over time and the potential alterations to this process as a result of short and long term pulses of nutrients from sewage loading. The second project that keeps me thinking about the consequences of long-term presses (e.g. climate) on mountain lakes is at the Castle Lake field station in Northern California. There we have long-term (>54 year), empirical measurements of climate variables and various lake attributes (primary and secondary production, nutrient profiles, physical status). We try to utilize this data set to understand how climate or fish stocking (pulse disturbance) interplay to maintain lake primary production and zooplankton biodiversity.
One thing you wished more people understood about DEB and why:
In my short time in DEB, I have found the program directors and staff to be an incredibly dedicated group of individuals. They take their positions seriously, work long hours to facilitate and promote their programs but also constantly think about the needs of the PI “community” and the future of research and education in Environmental Biology. Behind the scenes, there is a constant conversation on how to improve things for our “community”. These discussions rely on thinking about opportunities for funding for the PI community, improving but streamlining the proposal decision making process to minimize the burden of reviews placed on scientists. If a PI is not funded traditionally by NSF but engages a Program Director in a constructive manner, I have observed staff in DEB giving honest and frank feedback to the PI. In many cases, I have observed program officers trying to connect PIs and students with non NSF funding programs so they can see their colleagues reach their goals. There is constant conversation about how to think beyond the average proposal and make sure we are thinking about the next exciting, science-based idea. I want to encourage you, the PI community, to get involved with process. Pick up the phone, call your program officer if you have questions, write in to this blog, or become more involved with your scientific society. There is a lot of work ahead of us as a community if we are going to work together to improve funding for our programs and, more important, develop the creative exciting science, many of us want to be a part of.