Meet DEB: Jason West and Kimberly Hughes

Name and Cluster: Jason West, Ecosystem Science

Education: Earned a BS from Utah State University and a PhD from University of Georgia

Home Institution: Texas A&M University

Tell us about your research: Broadly, my group seeks answers to questions about plant-environment interactions by conducting research that spans the disciplines of both plant physiological and ecosystem ecology. Our work has recently included studies of plant functional traits in Brazil and Mexico, as well as explorations of genome-trait relationships in loblolly pine water use strategies. Ongoing projects explore functional characteristics among C4 grass species, vegetation change and its effects on groundwater recharge, and savanna carbon cycle responses to land management strategies. We also collaborate on a variety of projects that utilize stable isotopes, including projects related to paleoreconstruction, and have ongoing interests in spatial isotope questions (isoscapes).

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I have been interested in serving for a number of years now. I find the creativity and accomplishments of my fellow researchers invigorating and am excited about the prospect of participating directly in the federal government’s support of the research enterprise in the United States. Scientific research contributes to the broader well-being of humanity, and it is an honor to be part of this process as a Program Director.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? All of it! (OK, maybe not all of the paperwork) I am excited to get to know my fellow program officers and all the people at NSF who make this amazing organization work. I also look forward to interacting with reviewers, panelists and PIs, as I do my part to help NSF fund research that expands knowledge and understanding, while supporting the careers of researchers and their institutions around the country.

Name and Cluster: Kim Hughes, Evolutionary Processes Cluster

Education: Earned a BA from Rice University and MS & PhD from University of Chicago

Home Institution: Florida State University

Tell us about your research: I’m interested in the maintenance of genetic and phenotypic diversity within populations of organisms. For example, in one of the species I work with (Trinidadian guppies) males, but not females, are highly variable for body color.  If I collect 15 males from a single pool in a Trinidadian stream, every male will have a unique color pattern. Remarkably, nearly all that diversity is genetically based.  My lab uses lab and field experiments, quantitative genetics, transcriptomics and population genomics to understand how natural selection interacts with other processes (e.g., mutation) to promote and maintain genetic diversity in ecologically-relevant traits.  We are also interested in the role of social interactions in generating and maintaining diversity, and so some of our work overlaps with areas funded by IOS. We use fish (guppies and other livebearing Poeciliids) and fruit flies as our focal organisms.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I’ve been applying for (and occasionally receiving) awards from NSF since my graduate student days. I thought it was about time to learn more about the other side of the process!  I also see it as a way of giving back something to the agency that has supported me all these years.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I am looking forward to learning about a lot of exciting work outside my own subfield and to seeing how science funding policy is developed. I also want to better understand how NSF approaches issues around diversity and inclusion. Most importantly, I look forward to learning from all the great folks in DEB!

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