It is with great sadness that we relay news of the recent passing of our friend and long-time colleague, George Gilchrist. George joined NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology in 2009, and he was a stalwart and beloved member of the Evolutionary Processes cluster since that time. George made many valuable contributions to the NSF, the Biological Sciences Directorate, and the scientific community writ large.
George earned a B.S. at Arizona State University, an M.S. at Brown University and then followed his advisor, Joel Kingsolver, to the University of Washington, where he got his PhD in 1993 working on the evolution of thermal sensitivity. His most famous paper, which has been cited over 400 times, came from that dissertation (Gilchrist, G. W. 1995. Specialists and generalists in changing environments. I. Fitness landscapes of thermal sensitivity. The American Naturalist, 146(2), 252-270).
Following his post-doc at the University of Washington with Ray Huey, George took a faculty position at Clarkson University for 4 years, before moving on to the College of William & Mary for an additional 7 years. He then came to NSF. As a program officer in the Evolutionary Processes cluster, George played an important role in establishing the Dimensions of Biodiversity program with co-funding partners in Brazil, China and South Africa, as well as in managing the BEACON Science and Technology Center. George’s career reflected a keen interest in understanding the relationship between genetic mechanisms and ecological complexity as well as improvement of the teaching of Evolution. He became an elected AAAS Fellow in 2013.
George will be missed for his dedication to science and the scientific community, for his generosity and love of friends and family, and for his wit and charm that made him such a beloved member of DEB. He took a special interest in guiding early-career scientists through the process of writing proposals and managing awards. With his wife Katy, George was generous in welcoming and entertaining many members of the NSF community and introducing new program officers and staff to the DC region and to each other. He loved cooking outstanding meals, keeping a wonderful wine cellar, and preparing delicious cocktails. He also loved opera, and a wide variety of music, attending many concerts in the area. The Robert Burns night parties he organized with haggis, single malt scotch and poetry readings were the stuff of legend. His warmth as a host and close connections with local restaurants made for many memorable panel dinners and gatherings that extended beyond the workday.
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Katy Gilchrist, son David Gilchrist and David’s fiancé, Brittany Moore, both from St. Paul, MN.
You may learn more about his life in his obituary in the Washington Post here.
We invite George’s many friends and colleagues to offer their thoughts and memories of him in response to this blog post in the comment section below. There will be a slight delay before your comment becomes visible.