Remembering Our Friend and Colleague, George Gilchrist


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.


Now Hiring: Permanent Program Directors in Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes and Population & Community Ecology!

The Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation has initiated searches for three permanent Program Directors, one each in Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes, and Population and Community Ecology, all of which close on March 5, 2020.

These are full-time positions within the Federal Government. The responsibilities of Program Directors include program planning and management; representation of the program, Division, and the Foundation within the scientific community; communication within and outside of NSF; and scientific and programmatic leadership. Additionally, these positions involve professional development, including active participation in professional activities, as well as pursuing individual research, as workload and travel funds permit.

For more details and how to apply, please visit the job announcement:



Upcoming Virtual Office Hour: Rules of Life Opportunities

Join us February 10th from 1pm-2pm EST for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to the Rules of Life (RoL) track within our core programs solicitation (NSF 20-502) and Understanding Rules of Life (NSF 20-512 and NSF 20-513) one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas. Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs will be available for questions. Questions can be on any DEB topic.

Please use the registration link below to participate. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are listed here and below, so sign up for blog notifications for reminders. Also, follow us on the NSF Biology Twitter account (@NSF_BIO) for same day alerts about the DEB Virtual Office Hours.


If you can’t make it to this or any future office hours, don’t worry! Come back here, as we will be posting a recap and presentation slides to our blog. As always, our Virtual Office Hours will happen on the second Monday of every month from 1pm-2pm EST. Below is a list of upcoming dates and topics, so be sure to add them to your calendars!

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics

February 10: Rules of Life Opportunities

March 9: RAPID/EAGER/Workshops

April 13: Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS)

May 11: CAREERs

June 8: BIO Postdoc Program

Meet DEB: Matthew Herron


Heidi helping her human, Matthew Herron.

Name: Matthew Herron

Education: BA and MS University of Central Florida, PhD University of Arizona

Home Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology

Tell us about your research: I study the so-called “major evolutionary transitions” using a combination of experimental, comparative, theoretical, and philosophical approaches. My main focus is on the evolution of multicellularity in the volvocine green algae (Volvox and its relatives). The ancestors of this group made the transition to multicellular life relatively recently, and living species span a wide range of sizes and degrees of complexity, from single-celled Chlamydomonas to multicellular organisms with tens of thousands of differentiated cells in the genus Volvox. This diversity makes them a great system for comparative studies, especially since many of the traits related to multicellular complexity appear to have evolved more than once within the group.

Why do you want to serve with NSF? I have enjoyed serving on review panels, and each time I have been impressed by the thoroughness and fairness of the NSF review process. I also love learning about research outside of my field. Proposals reflect the absolute leading edge within their disciplines, and in biology, that edge is expanding so quickly that work being proposed today often would have been impossible only a few years ago. During review panels and during my interview, it seemed that everyone I met was sincerely happy to be here, and that impression hasn’t changed since I arrived.

What are you looking forward to in your tenure here at NSF? I look forward to meeting and interacting with biologists across a wide range of subdisciplines and learning about their research. I’m excited to join a team of people dedicated to advancing the science of evolutionary biology and having some input on the direction it takes. It also happens that Alexandria is much closer to my family than anywhere I’ve lived before, so I look forward to spending more time with them.


DCL: Developing and Supporting the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) User Community

NEON completed construction and became fully operational in early 2019.  The NSF BIO Directorate has issued a Dear Colleague letter expanding on its interest in developing and supporting the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) user community. The letter details NSF’s plans to issue awards supporting the use of NEON data, including NEON user workshops and conferences, research coordination network awards, and support through the Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science Program and other existing programs. BIO plans to provide support for other activities that enable NEON-based research through fostering team science, user group coordination, and new NEON-fueled scientific collaborations. These NEON user community activities are anticipated to be highly complementary to, but distinct from the NEON facility, and are intended to help fully realize the open science mission of NEON.


EDGE (Enhancing Discovery through GEnomics Tools)

The Biological Sciences directorate recently published the new EDGE (Enhancing Discovery through GEnomics Tools) solicitation (20-532), which includes some notable changes that may represent a new opportunity for investigators who would typically seek funding from DEB. It has two tracks:

  1. Functional Genomic Tools Track
  2. Complex Multigenic Traits Track

The most significant change is the incorporation of a complex multigenic traits track to support hypothesis-driven research aimed at linking genotypes to phenotypes. This track was included to promote the development of theory, tools, and approaches that will enable prediction of quantitative traits for a diversity of organisms in a variety of contexts (environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic). Its inclusion is an explicit acknowledgment of the fact that many biologically and ecologically relevant traits are the result of interactions among multiple genes, many of which may have small effect and whose expression depends on the dynamics of regulatory networks.

Those who study the evolution and expression of ecologically relevant traits, plant microbial interactions, microbial metabolism and community structure, and behavior may be particularly interested in the solicitation. There is no deadline associated with this solicitation. If you are interested in learning more about this funding opportunity, please read the solicitation, email the EDGE Working Group ( with specific questions about proposed research, and attend the upcoming webinar on January 31.

Event: EDGE Program Webinar

Date/Time: Friday, January 31, 2020, from 2:00pm – 3:00pm Eastern Time

  • Event Number: 906 284 287
  • Event Password: Edge2020!


1/13/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its second Virtual Office Hour on January 13th, 2020. Below is a recap of some of the questions asked during this past session which focused on the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) (NSF 20-502) track, as well as the co-review process used within the Division.

Join us for the next Virtual Office Hour on February 10th, 2020 from 1-2pm EST where we will talk about the Rules of Life (RoL) track in the BIO core solicitation and the NSF-wide Understanding Rules of Life (URoL) solicitation.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

If you were unable to attend, here are a some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:

Q: For the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) category, is it necessary for the proposal to be split equally between ecology and evolution? If not, what fraction would you expect to see?

A: There is no set fraction of ecology and evolution required in a BEE proposal. You are encouraged to form a team consisting of the right people based on the expertise needed and the questions you want to answer.

Q: What is the average budget for a BEE proposal? Is there a maximum amount allowed?

A: There is no budget cap for BEE proposals. The amount requested is entirely up to the PI. This is the same for all proposals submitted to the core solicitation, with the exception of Small Grants, which are capped at $200,000. As is always the case, a PI should request what is necessary to complete the project.

Q: Should Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) supplements be included within the budget of BEE proposals at time of submission?

A: Yes. DEB has been emphasizing that education and broadening participation requests should be included in the budget of the proposal at time of submission. To learn more about these types of requests, please check out this blog post.

Q: Can BEE proposals cross DEB and other Divisions in NSF?

A: Yes, as long as the proposal meets the BEE criteria of integrating questions that span the ecological (ES, PCE) and evolutionary (EP, SBS) clusters. If the proposal topic also spans multiple Divisions in the Biology Directorate, we encourage you to think about whether your proposal might be a better fit for the Rules of Life track. Tune in for the Rules of Life and Understanding the Rules of Life virtual office hours on February 10, 2020 for more information or contact a Program Officer with specific questions. Please note that proposals seeking to bridge evolution and ecology in the marine biome should be submitted to the more appropriate choice of either EP or SBS; these will be co-reviewed with GEO’s Biological Oceanography program.

Q: Are panelists/reviewers told that they are reviewing a co-reviewed proposal?

A: This information is not shared with ad hoc reviewers. Panelists will not know ahead of time; however, this information may be shared with them during the panel as Program Officers from other programs tend to visit the panel to listen to the discussion.

Q: When will the new Biographical Sketch and Current and Pending Support requirements as outlined in the new Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1) go into effect?

A: Any new requirements become effective 90 days after the PAPPG’s release. For more, please check out this link from the NSF Policy Office.


Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs.

The DEB monthly Virtual Office Hour takes place the 2nd Monday of every month from 1-2pm EST. The topics rotate, but listeners are welcome to ask about any NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s core programs will be present.Be sure to check back here or follow the BIO Twitter (@NSF_BIO) for information on how to register.