Meet DEB: Catherine O’Reilly, Cathie Aime, and Nochienna Agubuzo 

Name and Cluster: Catherine O’Reilly, Ecosystem Science Cluster 

Education: Earned a B.A. from Carleton College and Ph.D. from University of Arizona 

Home Institution: Illinois State University 

Tell us about your research: Broadly, I’m interested in how human activities influence aquatic ecosystems. A large part of my work has focused on the impacts of climate on lakes, including Lake Tanganyika, East Africa. This deep tropical lake is particularly susceptible to warming, leading to changes in mixing and nutrient availability. This has consequences for fish populations, most of which are endemic. Fish are already under threat by intensive harvesting pressure from a growing human population and the adoption of new technologies. Our transdisciplinary research has shown that traditional knowledge is consistent with scientific studies. However, fishermen subvert efforts to manage catches, and developing sustainable fishing practices is further complicated by the lack of alternative livelihoods.  

I also explore the role of climate through global-scale studies, which have included lake warming, ice cover, and water color. While global scale research is useful for examining the influence of climate and lake geomorphometry, it remains challenging to resolve the role of local factors and cross-scale interactions. 

Why do you want to serve with NSF? NSF has such a prominent place in funding science and a plays key role in establishing career pathways for scientists, it’s an honor to be here. It seemed like this was a good opportunity to learn more about how the agency works while also giving back. I’m looking forward to helping scientists in the community connect to these resources, while also learning more about their challenges.  

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? Across the agency, there is an incredibly high level of diverse projects being funded, along with real efforts to broaden participation. I’m excited to be part of these conversations, and to contribute to encouraging careers in science and supporting cutting edge research. My colleagues in DEB are fantastic and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from them.  

Name and Cluster: Mary Catherine (Cathie) Aime, Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster 

Education: Earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech  

Home Institution: Purdue University 

Tell us about your research: I’m a mycologist and I’m most interested in fungal biodiversity at all levels, especially from lineages and habitats that are little explored.  Understanding how these fungi are adapted for their environment is especially interesting – every fungus has a unique story to tell. 

Why do you want to serve with NSF? It is a good time in my career to give back to my science and to NSF, which has done so much to support my science. 

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? Learning more about the other types of science in the U.S.; learning how others approach systematics, especially within better documented groups, and hopefully becoming a better-rounded scientist in the process. Working with and learning from people who are as passionate about systematics as I am! 

What is your name and role here at DEB? Hello! My name is Nochienna Agubuzo, and I am a new Program Specialist (PS) in DEB. I am learning my role in support of OM with financial tracking, award processing, and other operations activities. I currently work with two clusters: Evolutionary Processes and Systematic and Biodiversity Science. 

How did you learn about NSF? I first learned about NSF at Pointer Ridge Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland! I was in the 1st grade when my teacher turned on a VHS of the Magic School Bus during an early childhood introduction to science. The National Science Foundation was recognized in the beginning credits for major funding for the Magic School Bus in the 90’s. Over two decades later, I rediscovered NSF through a former colleague who started to work at NSF through a pathways program.  

What did you study in school? I received my Bachelor of Science in Business Management and minored in Management Information Systems at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. 

Which cartoon world would you want to live in? I have never really thought about living in a cartoon world, but if I had to choose, I would live in Pandora – The World of Avatar. That movie was very captivating to me, and I recall wishing I was an Avatar living in their world.  

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