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.


Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER)

Check out this opportunity to advance the biological sciences through collaborations with scientists in developing countries funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Funds will be made available to foreign collaborators through USAID’s program on Partnerships for Advanced Engagement in Research (PEER) current solicitation. The deadline for pre-proposals is February 10, 2020.

The program is funded by USAID, managed by the National Academies of Science, and coordinated with six federal agencies, including NSF. Its goal is “to build scientific capacity and empower researchers in developing countries to use science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to address local and global development challenges.”

Some of the focus areas include Advanced Digital Tools and AI and any development-related research topic. You will find information on all of the focus areas in the solicitation which also includes an open call for projects in addition to several country-specific focus areas.

Who can apply?

U.S. researchers cannot submit PEER proposals. Instead, they must be submitted by foreign collaborators working with US PIs with active awards from NSF, NASA, NIH, Smithsonian Institution, USDA, and/or USGS.

Currently funded principal investigators looking for funds to support collaborators in PEER-eligible countries and focus areas should encourage their colleagues in other countries to apply.

Applicants must:

  • Be based at an academic institution, non-profit organization, or government-managed research laboratory, center, or institute in a PEER-eligible country or focus area;
  • Hold a career-track position or equivalent at their institution;
  • Work in the country from which they are applying; and
  • Be nationals (citizens or permanent residents) of the PEER-eligible country for the focus area to which they are applying.

See full eligibility requirements here.


Reintegrating Biology Workshop Series Outcomes

Check out this great post from our friends over at the Office of the Assistant Director;

“The BIO Directorate considers integrative approaches to understanding life’s key innovations as essential for understanding the full diversity of mechanisms regulating fundamental biological processes.

The Reintegrating Biology series of workshops ( included a combination of virtual and in-person events and provided a venue for the broader biological community to discuss the opportunities and challenges for integrating across the biological sub-disciplines. As part of this series of workshops, a total of 318 researchers participated in four concurrent jumpstart meetings in Atlanta, Austin, San Diego and virtually during December 4-6, 2019.  Participants collaborated on a series of vision papers describing what could be accomplished by reintegrating across the subdisciplines of biology, and some of the obstacles preventing such a reintegration from happening. So far, 60 vision papers have been received and can be viewed at: Other vision papers have already been submitted for publication. The next Reintegrating Biology event will be a virtual Microlab on January 16 where participants from the four jumpstart meetings will discuss similar themes that emerged during the different events.

NSF would like to thank the participants of the four jumpstart meetings and the broader biological research community for helping make the series of reintegrating biology workshops such a success. These discussions will inform both current integrative biology funding opportunities such as the Rules of Life track in each of the divisional solicitations and the Biology Integration Institutes program (, as well as future activities.”

Upcoming Virtual Office Hour: BEE and Co-Review

Join us January 13th from 1pm-2pm EST for DEB’s next Virtual Office Hour. Program Officers will provide an introduction to the Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) special category (NSF 20-502) and describe the co-review process. Representatives from each of the four core DEB 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

January 13: Bridging Ecology and Evolution (BEE) and Co-review

February 10: Rules of Life vs. Understanding Rules of Life

March 9: RAPID/EAGER/Workshops

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

May 11: CAREERs

June 8: BIO Postdoc Program


12/9/19 Virtual Office Hours Recap

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its first Virtual Office Hour on December 9th, 2019. We’ll be hosting these office hours monthly on 2nd Mondays at 1-2pm EST. There will be a different theme each time, but visitors are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers from each of DEB’s clusters will be present at every Virtual Office Hour.

We were pleased that 95 participants joined us last week. This month’s topic was introducing DEB and outlining the submission and review process under our current solicitation (NSF 20-502). We provided information on each cluster’s thematic focus, and explained which programs still have deadlines, given the NSF BIO Directorate’s transition to no-deadline solicitations.

The presentation is available here:
Presentation Slides (PDF)

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

Q: How many panels are being held per year with core programs now that there isn’t a deadline? When should I submit my proposal?
A: We are holding panels year-round. There is no “best” time of year to submit a proposal, so our advice is to submit when you feel your proposal is ready.

Q: How many proposals can an investigator submit as a PI and/or Co-PI? Can an investigator submit a proposal to one cluster and another proposal to a different cluster/program?
A: There are no limits to the number of proposals a PI and/or Co-PI can submit. However, the aims of the different proposed projects must not substantially overlap.

Q: What is the timeline for the review process of proposals under the no deadline solicitation?
A: We strive to notify PIs of our decisions within 6 months of receiving a proposal. For many years we’ve been successful in doing so for the vast majority of proposals.

Q: Do I need to include prior support from a project that ended more than 5 years ago?
A: No, the PAPPG requires that only prior support from any current funding or an award with an end date in the last 5 years should be included. If there was more than one award for a PI/co-PI, reporting should be on the one most closely related to the proposal. However, if you have an older project that was very productive, you are not penalized for including that information.

Q: What are the similarities and differences between Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) and Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE) proposals?
A: EAGER is a type of proposal used to support exploratory work on potentially transformative ideas or approaches. This work is typically “high risk-high payoff” in the sense that it, for example, involves radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives.

RAISE is a type of proposal that supports bold, interdisciplinary projects whose: 1. scientific advances lie in great part outside the scope of a single program or discipline, such that substantial funding support from more than one program or discipline is necessary; 2. lines of research promise transformational advances; and 3. prospective discoveries reside at the interfaces of disciplinary boundaries that may not be recognized through traditional review or co-review. All three criteria must be met to be considered a RAISE.

Both types of proposals are reviewed internally rather than by a panel and require Program Officer approval for submission. If you are thinking of submitting an EAGER or RAISE, please contact a Program Officer for more guidance, and review the PAPPG II.E for more information.

Q: Is there a list of programs that DEB co-reviews with? What does co-review mean and how does it work?
A: There is no list of programs with which DEB co-reviews proposals. Depending on the aims and proposed activities, we could co-review with any program in NSF. Because of synergies, however, most of our co-reviews are between clusters in DEB, with other divisions in the Biological Sciences (BIO) directorate, and with divisions in the Geosciences (GEO) Directorate. Check out our blog post for information on how co-reviews work, and attend our Jan. 13, 2020 office hours for more information.

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. Tune in for the BEE office hours on January 13, 2020 for more information or contact a Program Officer with specific questions.

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

Our next virtual office hours will be held on January 13, 2020 from 1-2pm EST and will discuss the BEE category and co-review. Please bring any questions on the topic or NSF/DEB at large. All questions are welcome. Be sure to check back here or follow the BIO Twitter (@NSF_BIO) for information on how to register.

New CAREER and Dimensions Solicitations Released

A new Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) solicitation has been released. The next deadline for proposals is July 27th, 2020. Be sure and read the full solicitation here and check out the program webpage for a webinar and FAQs.

A new Dimensions of Biodiversity solicitation has also been released. The next deadline for proposals is March 27th, 2020. As with all solicitations, be sure and read the full solicitation here and check out the program webpage for FAQs and other important information.