Meet DEB: George Malanson, PCE Program Officer

Basic Profile

Name: George Malanson

GPM head

Education: PhD, UCLA, 1983

Home Institution: University of Iowa

Research Experience/History: I started out in fire ecology, working on coastal sage scrub at UCLA with Walt Westman. I continued on that track in a postdoc in Montpellier, France (with Louis Trabaud on an NSF fellowship), where I was able to augment some of his experimental burns with some of my own. In between I had an interlude where I was serendipitously introduced to Glacier National Park (avalanche paths there look like fuel breaks carved into the hillsides of southern California – and function similarly). Looking at avalanche paths set up a switch to riparian ecology when I moved to Iowa because I wanted to refocus on spatial structure, and linearity seemed like a good construct. I later changed to alpine treeline to continue the linearity – in a different way – but mostly to get back to the Glacier. That work has occupied most of the past 25 years. Recently I have been looking at some large scale biogeography of alpine tundra, in part because the tundra is important for what happens to tree seedlings at treeline and in part because its diversity may be what suffers with climate change. The continuing question in this work is: How does the spatial structuring of populations by the abiotic environment affect the processes determining community structure and diversity. I am particularly interested in feedback loops. Some modeling work has led to applying similar models for coupled human-natural systems.

NSF Experience/History: NSF Rotator since 8/4/14. Review experience: prior site panel for LTER; reviewer for PCE, GSS; panelist for CNH, GSS.

Competitions I currently work on: Population and Community Ecology.

Q & A

Describe your current IR/D activities:

  • Revising a manuscript on how neighborhood facilitation works in the stress-gradient hypothesis
  • Revising a manuscript on beta-diversity in alpine tundra

What do you do in your position at NSF?

Ad hoc, ad hoc, and ad hoc: i.e., get proposals reviewed.

Biggest surprise you’ve encountered coming to DEB from the academic world:

Everyone here uses acronyms. All the time. Who knew?

One thing you wished more people understood about your field and why:

Uncertainty. It doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything.

What was the last book you read?

The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett, but I recommend her short stories, especially Servants of the Map.

Something extra about you to share with readers?

I have a passing interest in academic genealogies. Mine goes back to John Merle Coulter (1851-1928), but his doctorates were honorary and so it stops there.


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