Meet DEB: Ford Ballantyne and Diana Pilson


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.

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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.