Meet DEB: Marty Condon


MC and dogs cropped

                      Marty being supervised by Melon, Phoebe, and Max.

Name and Cluster: My name is Marty Condon and I’ve joined the Evolutionary Processes Science cluster as a rotating Program Officer.

Education: B.S. University of Michigan, Ph.D. University of Texas

Home Institution: Cornell College

Tell us about your research: I am a naturalist. I ask who, where, how, and why questions—and focus on “why.” I work on plant-animal interactions involving sexually dimorphic Neotropical cucurbit vines with size-related sex determination. These plant-animal interactions are complicated and specialized. Flowers of the vine are pollinated by hummingbirds and Heliconius butterflies while large bats are seed dispersal agents, and tephritid fruit flies (Blepharoneura) are seed predators. Blepharoneura species are extraordinarily specialized and diverse: most species feed on the calyx of only a single sex flower of only one species of plant. Many cucurbit species are hosts to extremely diverse environments with any given plant species hosting more than a dozen species of fly. The flies are parasitized by similarly specialized and diverse lethal parasitic wasps. Most wasps can kill only one species of fly, and most fly species are lethal to all but one species of specialist wasp. So how do the flies and wasps kill each other? Do poorly defended flies escape enemies by switching host plants? Our research works within this complex web of interactions and currently tests the hypothesis that virulence affects diversification rates.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? NSF funding is critically important for evolutionary and ecological research and made my work possible. I want to serve with NSF because I will learn so much about the funding process. As a panelist on a variety of panels, I learned a lot about the review process and saw how a diversity of voices (including those of us from small liberal arts colleges) can encourage creative science. Now I want to find out what happens before and after panels meet. I look forward to being part of that process.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? The opportunity to read proposals representing the future of science is super exciting, as is the opportunity to work with colleagues in the Division of Environmental Biology and more broadly within NSF. I’m especially interested in encouraging collaboration across areas of science. I firmly believe that advances in biology depend upon the quality of the questions that scientists ask. Ideally, those questions are not constrained by boundaries that are perceived to define disciplines or subsets of disciplines.