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.

Systematics and Biodiversity Science-focused Office Hour

The Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster invites you to join a special systematics-themed edition of DEB’s Virtual Office Hours on Thursday, September 10th from 1:00-2:00 PM EDT. Program Officers will be on hand to talk about opportunities for funding research in systematics and to answer your questions. We’ll highlight special proposal categories in the DEB solicitation designed to support systematics research (e.g., ARTS and PurSUiT), as well as cross-cutting programs that systematists might want to explore (e.g., Bridging Ecology & Evolution (BEE) and Dimensions of Biodiversity). Please click on the link below to register for this webinar.

Register for the SBS Office Hour.


New Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) Solicitation is Live!

Our friends in DBI shared a post about the PRFB that you can read here or in full below:

“The 2020 Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) solicitation (20-602) has been released. The submission deadline is Wednesday, November 18th, 2020.

There are three Competitive Areas:

  1. Broadening Participation of Groups Underrepresented in Biology
  2. Integrative Research Investigating the Rules of Life Governing Interactions Between Genomes, Environment and Phenotypes
  3. Plant Genome Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

Read the solicitation carefully for changes from the previous solicitation, and follow our blog for further updates regarding this solicitation and how you can best prepare your proposal.

To see what types of projects were funded last year, view the announcement of the FY 2019 awards. Questions? Please contact the PRFB program at”



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.




8/10/20 Virtual Office Hours Recap – DISES

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on August 10th, 2020. We host these office hours 1-2pm EDT on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters are present at each Virtual Office Hour. This month’s topic was Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental System Proposals (DISES) (NSF 20-579). This solicitation is an update of the program previously known as CNH and CNH2.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

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

What are the major differences between the CNH2 solicitation and DISES solicitations?

We have tried to make things easier for PIs. The content and themes are the same, but what we removed was the number of things that caused proposals to be returned without review. There is no longer a requirement to submit a Letter of Intention prior to submission, and the one-page requirement of the project description of DISES was relaxed along with other minor details that were confusing to the community

What is the general expectation for preliminary data for the proposal to DISES, especially given the influence of the pandemic that affects collection of preliminary data?

Preliminary data must indicate feasibility of the proposal and that there are compelling questions that can be answered. We understand getting into the lab can be difficult during these times, but we are understanding in that preliminary data will change given the COVID-19 pandemic. DISES is interested in proposals that are synthetic in nature, which might be an additional way to get data in a creative way to try to answer questions based on your project.

For DISES, can you tell us a bit more about 1. Composition of the review panel (in terms of areas of expertise) and 2. what an ideal balance between the social and biogeophysical sciences might look like in a proposal?

DISES proposals are only reviewed in panel; they are not sent out for ad hoc reviews. In terms of the composition of the panel, we look for a combination of broad thinkers and expertise based on the proposals that come in. We may have multiple panels to ensure that the panels are diverse and have deep expertise and broad thinkers. The balance of disciplines within the proposal depends on the questions that you are asking or the theory/concepts that your proposal is addressing. We want proposals to have enough of the disciplines that we are seeing the integration of sciences and not be skewed toward one discipline or another.

Can PIs submit a proposal as a collaborative proposal from multiple institutions? Could a single investigator submit a proposal?

PIs cannot submit collaborative proposals from multiple institutions. Single PIs can work with PIs at multiple institutions by submitting a proposal with subawards to Co-PIs in other institutes. A single investigator could submit a proposal, but it would be difficult to be competitive given how integrative these projects are. Typically, there are 4 or 5 PIs in different areas that contribute their strengths to the project.

What is the expectation for documentation of support or commitment from community/non-academic partners? Does a simple letter of support suffice, is something else expected?

The DISES solicitation follows guidance laid out in the PAPPG 20-1 for documentation of letters of support, which states: Letters of collaboration should be limited to stating the intent to collaborate and should not contain endorsements or evaluation of the proposed project. The recommended format for letters of collaboration is as follows:

“If the proposal submitted by Dr. [insert the full name of the Principal Investigator] entitled [insert the proposal title] is selected for funding by NSF, it is my intent to collaborate and/or commit resources as detailed in the Project Description or the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal.”

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

Our next virtual office hours will be held on September 14th, 2020 from 1-2pm EDT and will address Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES; NSF 20-506).

Be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

September 14: Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES)

October 19: BIO Postdoc Program

November 9: Intro to DEB

December 14: Supplements

January 11: TBD (Feel free to suggest a topic!)

BIO Virtual Drop-In Session for ESA Follow-up

Please join NSF Program Officers from the Division of Environmental Biology (DBI), Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI), and Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) on Thursday August 13th anytime from 9 am to 5 pm Eastern for an informal question and answer session.

Registration Link

We are hosting this session to allow for the types of conversations about programs and initiatives that would normally happen at the Annual ESA Meeting, but couldn’t this year because of the virtual format. Program Officers will not be presenting prepared material, so please come prepared to type your questions into the Q&A box and hear them answered. We will have Program Officers representing a variety of different programs and topics throughout the day. They can answer questions about these programs or discuss other topics you may want to raise. As always, feel free to reach us through email as well.

Program Officer Program Officer Begin Time End Time Topics
Betsy von Holle Sharon Swartz 9:00am 10:00am Population and Community Ecology, LTREB, Coastlines and People, CAREER, Physiological and Structural Systems, Integrative Organismal Systems
Irv Forseth Sam Scheiner 10:00am 11:00am Integrative Ecological Physiology, ecology and evolution, Integrative Organismal Systems, Evolutionary Processes, Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases
Montona Futrell-Griggs Mike Binford 11:00am 12:00pm Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science
Kendra McLauchlan Elizabeth Blood 12:00pm 1:00pm DISES, Ecosystem Science, LTREB, Dimensions of Biodiversity, Navigating the New Arctic
Doug Levey Chris Balakrishnan 1:00pm 2:00pm Population and Community Ecology, LTER, GRFP, Dimensions of Biodiversity, ecology and evolution
Peter McCartney Reed Beaman 2:00pm 3:00pm Cyberinfrastructure, collections, field stations and marine labs
Kendra McLauchlan   3:00pm 4:00pm Ecosystem Science, LTREB, Dimensions of Biodiversity, Navigating the New Arctic
Ford Ballantyne   4:00pm 5:00pm Ecosystem Science, Bridging Ecology and Evolution, Signals in the Soil, EDGE





The Coastlines and People Program is Hosting Virtual Office Hours

The Coastlines and People (CoPe) program will be holding office hours to answer questions about the CoPe solicitation (20-567).  Please register for the office hours using the links provided below. The office hours are intended to answer general questions.  Questions that are very specific to your proposal are best sent to  Before the office hours, please review the solicitation, the FAQs (NSF 20-078) and the webinar posted on the CoPe program page.

The times for these meetings are:

Tuesday August 4th, 2020 at 1pm EDT
Wednesday August 5th, 2020 at 2:30pm EDT
Thursday August 6th, 2020 at 8:30am EDT
Thursday August 6th, 2020 at 4:00pm EDT
Friday August 7th, 2020 at 1pm EDT

Please visit the CoPe Office Hours website for the registration links.


Upcoming Virtual Office Hours: Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental System Proposals

Join us August 10th from 1pm-2pm EDT for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to the Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental System (DISES) Solicitation (NSF 20-579). This solicitation is an update of the program previously known as CNH and CNH2. Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs will be available for questions, which can be on any DEB or NSF topic.

Please use the registration link below to participate. Upcoming DEB Virtual Office Hours are announced ahead of time on DEBrief, so sign up for blog notifications for reminders.


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

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics: 

August 10: Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems (DISES)

September 14: Macrosystems Biology and NEON-Enabled Science (MSB-NES)

October 19: BIO Postdoc Program

November 9: Intro to DEB

December 14: Supplements to existing awards

January 11: TBD

Virtual Panel Service: What to Expect

NSF remains open and operational and DEB has plans to continue holding virtual panels into the fall and winter seasons. You may have already received an email asking about your availability and may be curious about what a virtual panel experience looks like. In terms of the proposal review process, it looks a lot like in-person service but with some more frequent breaks, which we are finding necessary to reduce video conference fatigue. Let’s dive in!

Who serves on panels?

Panelists range in experience from post-doctoral scholars (rare, so don’t get your hopes up if you’re a postdoc) through the ranks to tenured faculty, museum curators, and other active researchers both inside and outside universities. This means you need a PhD and must be active in your field.


Program Officers review the content of each proposal and recruit panelists who are qualified to review the slate of proposals in a given panel. This can explain why you may be recruited for some panels and not others. We try our best to build diverse panels, with broad representation of men and women, career stages, types of institution (e.g., Research-1, Primarily Undergraduate Institutions, Minority-Serving Institutions, museums), states (especially EPSCoR eligible), and membership in groups underrepresented in science. With respect to the latter, we rely on you to self-identify when you register with Fastlane or

Before we recruit someone for panel recruitment/service, we frequently ask them to serve initially as an ad hoc reviewer so that they become familiar with the review process. (An ad hoc reviewer is like a reviewer of a manuscript submitted to a journal. It’s a one-off review by someone who has expertise in the topic of a particular proposal.)

You can relay your interest in serving by visiting our website and signing up using our Reviewer Survey on our website.

Before Panel Service

So, you’ve been asked and agreed to serve on a panel*. That’s great! You’ll receive an email (a “Charge Letter”), describing how to register for the panel. You need to register before you can access any of the proposals.

After lots of communication from the managing Program Officer and you identifying any conflicts of interests, you’ll be given your review assignments – usually 4-6 weeks prior to the panel dates.

Next, you’ll write your individual reviews for 10-14 proposals, evaluating the intellectual merit and broader impacts. These individual reviews are completed before the panel starts. We recommend that reviews be submitted 3 to 5 days ahead of the panel so that everyone — Program Officers and other panelists — has the chance to ponder the complete set of opinions on each proposal. (Note that you won’t be able to see the ad hoc or other panelists’ reviews until you’ve submitted all of your own assigned reviews.)

*We query for panelist availability through surveys sent to a subset of the community but just because you are surveyed doesn’t guarantee you’ll be asked to serve on a panel.

Day of Service

The panel is a multi-day discussion of each proposal’s intellectual merits and broader impacts. For each proposal in a DEB panel, at least two other panelists will provide reviews. You and your fellow panelists will discuss each proposal, come to a consensus, and then make a recommendation about its overall quality to NSF.

How is the virtual panel experience different from the in-person experience?

A virtual panel can present new challenges in some ways but also offers huge benefits in other ways.

Based on conversations with panelists over the years, we know that one of the best things about in-person panel service is meeting and interacting with Program Officers and fellow panelists over dinners and coffee breaks. Although panel dinners are pretty much impossible in the virtual world, we’ve made time for informal break-out sessions during which panelists can chat with Program Officers and fellow panelists.

On the bright side, going virtual allows panelists who would have otherwise been unable to participate (due to family obligations or other time constraints) in panel service. We’ve seen virtual panels expand our community to include those who previously found the travel required for in-person panels too onerous.

We’ve also noted panelists’ dogs are enthusiastically supportive of the virtual format. Panelists’ cats remain indifferent.

How does serving on a virtual panel serve you?

  1. Each panel hosts a Q&A session with DEB senior leadership and representatives from the BIO Directorate Office of the Assistant Director. This is your chance to ask about upcoming funding opportunities and recent (or future) programmatic changes. We also value your suggestions for how to improve the review processes to better serve your community.
  2. You gain insight into new and emergent science in your field.
  3. You learn about grantsmanship.
  4. You learn about the merit review process.
  5. You build networks of scientists working on similar projects with similar goals.
  6. It’s intellectually stimulating. We guarantee you’ll be pushed in new directions.



Meet DEB: Ashley Le-Pham, Elizabeth Banda Cruz, and Bill Lawson


Ashley Le-Pham

What is your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Ashley Le-Pham, and I’m the newest Biologist to join DEB! My roles in DEB are pretty far and wide, but my primary responsibility is to assist in the merit review process by way of helping produce panel summaries, analyzing programmatic data, and being involved with outreach to the scientific community and the public.

How did you find out about NSF?

I first heard of NSF as an undergraduate researcher at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). I proudly displayed the NSF logo whenever I presented my research as NSF was our main source of funding. As for how I came to NSF for work, I was originally a Science Assistant in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, another division in BIO! I loved my time so much at NSF and knew I would want to stay here long-term (Science Assistants are on 2-year appointments). DEB hired me at the end of my science assistantship and the rest is history! Sometimes it still feels like a dream that I work at the National Science Foundation, and I am so happy to be here.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school.

At CSUF, I pursued a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Piano Performance. It was really cool to start my day by exercising my classical piano skills and then transition to more difficult chemistry classes in the afternoon. Studying metabolism was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate studies—it’s so interesting! My undergraduate research involved studying the critical starch-producing enzyme ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase and I studied this enzyme from the bacterial organism Deinococcus radiodurans in an effort to increase starch yield.

Cats or dogs?

Ooof. This is a hard question! I think for my current life stage, a cat would be better suited for me because of their independence and low maintenance. But I do love dogs because they are always so happy to be with you. Right now, I have my family dog with me (pictured here) in DC. She’s super low-maintenance, independent, and a great companion. I really do have the best of both worlds!



Is a hotdog a sandwich?

I think officially and logically, a hotdog is a sandwich. But will I ever verbally call a hotdog a sandwich? Never!


Elizabeth Banda Cruz

What is your name and role here at DEB?

I’m Elizabeth Banda Cruz and I’m a Program Assistant in DEB. I primarily support the Ecosystem Science and Population and Community Ecology clusters. More broadly, I help with travel documents, meeting schedules, panel preparations and during-panel tasks.

How did you find out about NSF?

Growing up with PBS Kids is probably how I first heard about NSF. However, I heard of an opportunity to work here from a friend I met in Eswatini while serving as a community health volunteer with the Peace Corps.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school.

I studied Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. I found Medical Anthropology most interesting as it aims to better understand the different factors that influence health and wellness.

Cats or dogs?

I am definitely more of a dog person. Especially huskies!

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?

Impossible to choose just one!


Bill Lawson

What is your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Bill Lawson, and I’m a Program Assistant in DEB. I am responsible for the general logistics surrounding hosting panels, travel for staff and visitors, and other administrative support tasks.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m from Southern Maryland and grew up around the Delmarva area. I’m a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mozambique, 2017-2019) with a B.S in Biology and a B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Wesleyan University. Soccer is my great passion and I enjoy playing, watching, and even coaching it on occasion.

Who do you cheer for?

I’m with the sky blue, Manchester City! As a kid, I wanted to root against my father, who is a Manchester United fan. Not being old enough to know that their rivals were actually Liverpool, I chose Manchester City to support, and we’ve been watching the derby ever since.

Anything else?

I have a particular love for quotes, and I wanted to share the following:

“I didn’t want to just know the names of things. I remember really wanting to know how it all worked.” -Elizabeth Blackburn, 2009 Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine