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NSF EAR Express Update - Autumn 2023

December 22, 2023

November 15, 2023

A Message from the Division Director for NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) 

Dear Colleagues,  

We have completed another fiscal year and are excited about all the research and education that EAR has supported through new and continuing awards.  We were happy to see the response we had to the GEO:CM Dear Colleague Letter (, which encouraged the submission of proposals on fundamental and use-inspired research into aspects of critical minerals ranging from ore genesis and evolution, prospecting for deposits, innovative extraction technologies, and environmental remediation. PI response to the DCL was enthusiastic and 8 top rated proposals were selected for support totaling over $2.64M. Supporting critical minerals research is a national priority and EAR is looking forward to working with partners to continue supporting this important area of research. 

We are now into the first quarter of the new fiscal year.  We continue our work to oversee the merit review process and collaborate with partners to develop and support new funding opportunities for the community.  One exciting new opportunity is the EMpoweringBRoader Academic Capacity and Education (EMBRACE) program (, which is focused on supporting research and education proposals submitted from non-R1 institutions. It is our hope that the EMBRACE program will allow all programs across the GEO Directorate to broaden, strengthen and diversify the STEM workforce. There are two tracks within the EMBRACE program focused on the differing needs of faculty members at non-R1 institutions. The next target date is in May, and you can learn more at the above website or by sending an email to the GEO-EMBRACE program director team ( 

EAR is searching for both permanent and rotating program officers to join our team in the areas of Instrumentation and Facilities ( and in Geophysics (  We hope that you will spread the word to colleagues and consider applying yourselves.  The Division of Earth Sciences is a wonderful place to work, and we love the work we do to support the research and education community. 

Finally, we would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or information that you’d like to share, please reach out to one of our program team members (, or send an email to me. 

Dena Smith-Nufio 

Division Director, Earth Sciences  



Table of Contents

  • EAR Staffing Updates
  • EAR News
  • Approaching Deadlines
  • Upcoming Webinars - External
  • Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs)
  • Community News
  • EAR-Funded Research



EAR Staffing Updates

New Staff 

The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) welcomes Dr. Margaret Fraiser, Dr. Leonard Spinu, and Alaekya Shetty to EAR.  

Dr. Margaret Fraiser joins EAR as a permanent Program Officer in the Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology (SGP) program from AGU (American Geophysical Union), an international nonprofit supporting more than half a million advocates and professionals in the Earth and space sciences, where she held the position of Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. At AGU she co-led the development and implementation of two NSF-funded projects aimed at creating a network of leaders empowered with skills and resources to promote DEI in their own institutions and across STEM. Prior to AGU, Dr. Fraiser was an Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), an R1 doctoral university. She investigated deep time paleoecology using quantitative methods in paleobiology and sedimentology. She collaborated with students and scientists in on-location and laboratory-based research projects in Argentina, China, Italy, and the western USA. She previously served as an NSF IPA Program Officer in the SGP and Frontiers in Earth Sciences (FRES) programs. 

Dr. Leonard Spinu has joined the Division of Earth Sciences on a detail opportunity. Dr. Spinu joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2015 as the Program Director in National Facilities and Instrumentation Program in the Division of Materials Research (DMR) within the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS). Dr. Spinu is the cognizant Program Director for the NSF awards for the operation and management of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the Mid-scale RI-1 design of a 40T superconducting magnet. In addition to MPS/DMR, Dr. Spinu has served as a Program Director in Engineering Research Center program in the Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) from the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) and represented MPS in the Growing Convergence Research (GCR) and Ethical and Responsible Research (ER2) programs. In 2019 he was an Embassy Science Fellow (ESF) at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania. Before joining NSF, Dr. Spinu spent 16 years as a distinguished faculty member at the University of New Orleans with appointments in the Department of Physics and Advanced Materials Research Institute - AMRI. He served as an AMRI Director and conducted research focused on the study of strongly correlated electron materials and magnetic properties of nanostructured materials. Dr. Spinu received his B.S from Iasi University, Romania, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Solid State Physics from Paris-Sud University, Orsay, France. 

Alaekya Shetty has joined EAR as a Science Assistant. Through her scholarship awarded by Posse Foundation, she earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science and geosciences from Franklin & Marshall (F&M) College. At F&M, Alaekya was involved in a number of research labs working in GIS, sedimentology & stratigraphy, and paleobiology. In her last position as post-baccalaureate research assistant, Alaekya primarily worked in data organization and elementary earth science museum education. 


EAR thanks Dr. Jessica Robin for her service as Acting Division Director and Integrated Activities Section Head. We wish her success in her new role at NSF as Deputy Office Head in in the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE). We also wish Sadio Green luck as she transitions from Program Specialist to Integrative Activities Specialist in the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS), as well as Jessica McKay, who has joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as Science Communicator after serving as Science Assistant to EAR.  

We would like to announce the departure of Christopher Simmons from the National Science Foundation (NSF) after over 11 years of dedicated service. Chris joined NSF as a Pathways student, eventually becoming a Program Specialist and then Program Analyst. His remarkable career is highlighted by a series of academic achievements that underscore his commitment to personal and professional development. His educational journey encompasses an Associate degree in Administration of Justice from Northern Virginia Community College, a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management with minors in Communications and Divinity from Nyack College, and advanced degrees—an MBA in International Business and an MS in International Relations from Central Michigan University.  Supplementing this, he acquired certifications from esteemed institutions, including the Graduate School US Graduate Certification Programs, Management Concepts, and Arizona State University's Thunderbird Institute of Global Management. Within NSF and the Division, Christopher's impact reverberates.  As the NSF Representative for the National Association of Black Geoscientists (NABG), he played a pivotal role in recruiting representatives both within and outside of the division and mentoring students and faculty within the organization. Christopher also took the lead in organizing the NSF's participation in the Congressional Black Caucus, setting up the booth and facilitating its activities. His involvement in extracurricular activities within NSF included spearheading a pilot program for the transition from the old ACM$ System to the new system and serving on the design team for the new banking application. While taking on the role of Post-Doctoral Trainer, he also contributed to the design team for a new Post-Doctoral Program. Christopher's multifaceted accomplishments, coupled with his dedication to professional responsibilities and ongoing education, deserve our heartfelt appreciation. As he embarks on new endeavors with Homeland Security and the Department of Immigrations Customs Enforcement, we wish him continued success. His absence will be keenly felt, and we express sincere gratitude for his invaluable contributions to NSF and EAR. 



EAR News

EAR attended The National Association of Black Geologists and Geophysicists (NABG) at the end of September in Washington D.C. At this meeting, Program Director Hendratta Ali received the Catalyst Award. This award is given to a member of NABG, or supporter of the NABG mission, who exemplifies mentorship and development of young geoscientists; contributes to the furthering of the science through research and publication; and is actively giving back to communities across the country or globe through outreach. 

Several NSF Program Directors also attended the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, on October 15 to 18. Faculty, students and geoscientists from across the country met with Program Directors to learn about emerging funding programs, opportunities for students, and to learn about NSF. NSF staff participated in outreach events at the meeting and hosted a booth in the exhibitor hall. The meeting was a great opportunity for staff to engage with members of the community and hear about the latest research being done in the geoscience community. 



Update to the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) Data and Sample Policy   

On July 14, 2023, NSF published a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), NSF 23-131, announcing an update to the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) Data and Sample Policy. The updated policy applies to EAR proposals submitted after 90 days from publication of this DCL (i.e., after October 12, 2023) and until the policy is updated or replaced. The updated EAR Data and Sample Policy and an updated set of resources for this policy are available here. The updated policy strengthens certain requirements for proposal data management plans (DMPs) and for reporting to NSF on data and sample management activities in EAR awards. NSF recently announced upgrades to and the NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) to make it easier to report on data sharing in project reports. Questions concerning NSF policies for data and sample management and sharing should be directed to the programs to which principal investigators anticipate submitting proposals.



Approaching Deadlines

NSF 23-622

Organismal Response to Climate Change (ORCC)

This solicitation continues to accept full proposals that propose mechanistic studies of organismal response to climate change (ORCC) as a foundation that, when integrated with research at other levels of organization, will lead to a deeper understanding and better predictions of the integrity, the resilience, and the adaptation of biological systems to climate change.

Full Proposal Target Date is December 13, 2023



Frontier Research in Earth Sciences

The FRES program will support research in Earth systems from the core through the critical zone. The project may focus on all or part of the surface, continental lithospheric, and deeper Earth systems over the entire range of temporal and spatial scales. FRES projects should have a larger scientific scope and budget than those considered for funding by disciplinary programs in the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR).

Full Proposal Target Date is February 7, 2024

To view more funding opportunities please go here. 

REMINDER: Many EAR programs no longer have deadlines. We encourage you to review the solicitation of the program you are interested in and reach out to the program officers if you have any additional questions. 



Upcoming Webinars - External

Building Capacity to Meet Current and Future Challenges and Needs Facing the U.S. Mineral Resources Workforce: A Workshop

January 23rd - 24th, 2024

Details and registration for this event will be updated HERE.



Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs)

NSF 24-022

Dear Colleague Letter: Build a Resilient Planet

Geoscience research is integral to addressing exigent issues facing our Nation and the world. In its Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request to Congress, NSF proposed to launch a series of research funding activities to enable research, translation, and innovation that will “Build a Resilient Planet. In response, GEO released a series of Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) highlighting priority research areas and encouraging submission of proposals in these areas of interest.


NSF 23-057

Novel Approaches to Critical Minerals Research in the Geosciences (GEO-CM) - updated

Invites proposals on fundamental research to facilitate discovery, characterization, extraction and separation of critical minerals such as essential metals and rare earth elements required to achieve a clean-energy future.

To view a more complete list of current DCLS please go here.



Job Opportunities

The Division of Earth Sciences seeks candidates with expertise in the operations and management of community facilities and research infrastructure. Program Directors will join a team that oversees a broad portfolio which includes instrumentation, small-scale community facilities, mid-scale research infrastructure, and major facilities. The division is seeking candidates for both Permanent Program Officer Positions and IPA (Intergovernmental Personnel Act) Rotator Positions. IPA Rotators come to NSF on temporary (1-4 year) assignments and serve in a full-time program management role alongside NSF permanent staff. Learn more about the rotator program at NSF:

EAR is also seeking a candidate with expertise in any aspect of solid earth physics, such as geodesy, geodynamics, geomagnetism, mineral physics, potential fields, seismology or rock deformation. The Program Director will join the Geophysics program (see scope of program in the solicitation: This opportunity is available to IPA rotators. 

The Office of Polar Programs (OPP) are looking for Permanent and IPA Rotator Program Directors. Check out the links for the full job announcement and position description.



Community News

NSF's Discovery Files - Volcanic Eruption and Lava Flow

An understanding of the structure, composition and processes involved in erupting volcanoes and the ways lava flow can help better mitigate the effects of these environmental hazards. Our guest is Stephan Kolzenburg, assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, who joins us to share what makes volcanoes active, how researchers study lava flow in the field and ways to study it from a lab.



EAR-funded Research

Widespread retreat of coastal habitat is likely at warming levels above 1.5 °C

Nature: NSF EAR-1349311


Vertebrate ichnology and palaeoenvironmental associations of Alaska’s largest known dinosaur tracksite in the Cretaceous Cantwell Formation (Maastrichtian) of Denali National Park and Preserve

Historical Biology: NSF EAR-1226730 and EAR-1736515 


Moon-forming impactor as a source of Earth’s basal mantle anomalies 

Nature: NSF EAR-1849949, EAR-1855624 and EAR-2216564 


Watershed sediment cannot offset sea level rise in most US tidal wetlands

Science: NSF EAR-2049073


The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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