Meet DEB: Heather Throop and Bruce Lieberman


Heather Throop

Name and Cluster: My name is Heather Throop and I’ve joined the Ecosystem Science cluster as a rotating Program Officer.

Education: BA, Carleton College; PhD, Stony Brook University

Home Institution: Arizona State University

Tell us about your research: I’m an ecosystem scientist. I am fascinated by exploring how organisms affect larger-scale processes – such as carbon and nutrient cycling – and how these relationships are altered by human activities. I enjoy the inherently interdisciplinary nature of ecosystem science. I somewhat accidentally started working in drylands (arid and semi-arid systems) as a postdoc, and that experience led to me falling hopelessly in love with drylands and the organisms that eke out a living in these harsh environments. Most of my current work explores relationships among plants, soils, and carbon cycle processes in drylands, with a focus on how these relationships are altered by management activities and global change. One of my other passions is sharing excitement about science through teaching and mentoring. Despite their global and societal importance, drylands often are often underappreciated. I enjoy collaborating on programs that promote science education, appreciation, and research related to drylands.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? One of my favorite things about science is that our culture is to spend a lot of time helping each other through the peer review process. I am grateful for how peer review has strengthened my own science and I also appreciate how much I have learned as a reviewer. Participating in NSF panels has made me realize how well NSF manages the review process – and I’ve also found panels to be exciting, challenging, high-energy, and generally a lot of fun. I am excited by the opportunity to dive deeper into NSF to better understand how the review process is managed, expand my understanding of large-scale and interdisciplinary science programs, and to serve the scientific community.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I am really excited to have the opportunity to work with such a fantastic group of people who are dedicated to supporting science research and education. I am particularly looking forward to helping NSF support early career investigators and activities that help broaden participation in science. On the non-science side, I’m excited to spend time with my nieces and nephew in DC. Given the current pandemic situation, we’re all working remotely at this point and I haven’t moved to Alexandria. I’m looking forward to the time when we can be back in person and faces in Zoom squares will turn into real-life humans!

Bruce Lieberman Chalk Rock: 2017

Bruce Lieberman

Name and Cluster: My name is Bruce S. Lieberman and I’ve joined the Systematics and Biodiversity Science cluster as a rotating Program Officer.

Education: AB, Harvard College; MA and PhD, Columbia University

Home Institution: University of Kansas

Tell us about your research: I study the history of life in order to reconstruct the patterns and processes of evolution. My research emphasizes gaining insight into macroevolution using phylogenetic and biogeographic approaches. I am especially interested in using the study of the history of life preserved in the fossil record to contribute to our understanding of evolutionary theory. I specialize in fossil arthropods, particularly trilobites, but have worked with other marine invertebrate groups as well.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I have been extremely grateful for the funding that NSF has provided me, and I wanted to be able to give back to NSF through service. Further, I was very impressed by the quality and knowledge of the individuals that work at NSF. I am also fascinated with the past and present diversity of life, how we reconstruct its evolutionary history, and the topic of macroevolution, and NSF is the key organization that supports research in these areas. I wanted to learn more about all of the exciting research in these areas being supported by NSF and all of the ways that NSF is working to convey knowledge about scientific discoveries to the general public.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I am looking forward to working with colleagues in the Division of Environmental Biology, in general, and the Systematics and Biodiversity Science cluster, in particular. I am also looking forward to being able to contribute my knowledge in the area of macroevolution and to help support it as a fundamental part of the Systematics and Biodiversity Science cluster. In addition, I am looking forward to helping facilitate broader impacts in systematics.