Dosing the coast: Baltimore County’s leaky pipes are medicating the Chesapeake Bay

Read a recap of the first year of the newsletter and learn about new NSF-BIO efforts!



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A Message from the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

Dear Colleagues,

We have completed another fiscal year at NSF and the first year of the NSF BIO Newsletter! Over that time we have made hundreds of awards, worked to support the biological science workforce at every career stage, and sent out four (now five) quarterly updates to the community.

My hope is that this newsletter has and continues to provide valuable news and information to you about BIO’s scientific priorities, funding opportunities, and discoveries from your colleagues, as well as how you can share your own highlights or otherwise interact with BIO program officers and staff.

On that note, I want to highlight some of our efforts over the past year that we haven’t had a chance to raise up in past issues.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NSF and BIO reallocated funding to support disproportionately impacted groups -​ those at critical career transition points, in historically underserved groups, and at historically under-resourced institutions. Specifically in BIO, we made nearly $12 million in supplement awards as part of our Research Experience for Post-Baccalaureate Students (REPS) in the Biological Sciences opportunity, supporting students whose research opportunities were cut short by the pandemic. We also supported 156 post-doctoral researchers with supplements to extend their fellowships under the Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) program — as well increasing​ the number of new fellowships in the past two years over previous years –​ in recognition of the impact of the COVID pandemic. These supplements were made using a combination of FY 2021 appropriations and American Rescue Plan funds.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only thing that impacts underserved groups. To take steps to create the culture change necessary to broaden participation in the biological sciences, we released the LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies (LEAPS) of Biology Dear Colleague Letter (DCL).​ Earlier this fall we made five awards under the DCL to support three Research Coordination Networks, or RCNs, as well as two workshop series. Our efforts in the broadening participation space will continue in the coming year, including through the newly announced Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) program that focuses on supporting new faculty at MSIs, PUIs, and other colleges and universities that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive institutions.​ ​

As we go into year two of this newsletter, I encourage you to make use of the “Contact Us” button at the top of this message to let us know how we might better serve your needs or what different types of information you want to see in upcoming issues.

I also encourage you to make use of virtual office hours (information on times and dates is in the gray “BIO Blogs and Outreach” section below, plus a BIO-wide VOH on the new PAPPG listed under “Events”), workshops, PI meetings, NSF’s social media channels, and regular email communication with your program officer to keep in touch between issues. Don’t forget to check out the information below on the upcoming NSF Merit Review Survey, too!

Finally, I want to thank you all for your continued work and research as we remain in a primarily virtual environment. I know that this last year — fiscal and calendar — has not been easy and I appreciate all that you have produced and all those you have trained and educated. I hope that you remain safe and healthy.


Joanne Tornow
NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

2021 NSF Merit Review Survey Coming Soon!

The 2021 NSF Merit Review Survey, sponsored by the Office of Integrative Activities, will open on October 19, 2021.​ Individuals who have submitted and/or reviewed proposals between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2020 will​ receive personalized links to the survey that will provide feedback crucial to the ongoing improvement of the merit review process. The survey will close on​ November 29, 2021. Learn more on or reach out to with questions.

Water sampling in a Gwynns Falls stream
An adult male woolly mammoth navigates a mountain pass in Arctic Alaska, 17,100 years ago.
A genetics team is making new discoveries leading to better corn plants.
Rendition of a phage particle displaying a region of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

View Highlights from BIO Awardees

Dosing the coast: Baltimore County’s leaky pipes are medicating the Chesapeake Bay

Research at the urban LTER site in Baltimore shows faulty wastewater infrastructure leads to thousands of doses of drugs entering the bay.

Study takes unprecedented peek into life of 17,000-year-old mammoth

Researchers funded by the Division of Biological Infrastructure have retraced the lifetime journey of an Arctic woolly mammoth.

Genetics team aims for better corn plants

Plant Genome Research Program-funded​ work could lead to bigger yields, better stress tolerance.

Scientists developing inhalable COVID-19 vaccine spray

Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences-funded researchers are working on new strategies that​ would be easier to manufacture and​ do not require cold storage.

Get more BIO-funded highlights

Reminder: Share your highlights and outcomes with your Program Officer as soon as possible. We also encourage you to illustrate how an NSF award enabled your work when discussing it publicly and promoting it.


NSF establishes new institutes for harnessing the data revolution (September 28, 2021)

NSF invests in mid-scale research infrastructure (September 27, 2021)

NSF invests $21 million to tackle two complex societal challenges: the networked blue economy, and trust and authenticity in communication systems (September 22, 2021)


October 14 and 15, 2021
2021 Research Coordination Networks in Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) Webinars​ (Program Webinar)

October 26, 2021
BIO-wide Virtual Office Hours on New NSF PAPPG (Virtual Office Hour)

November 3-4, 2021
Fall 2021 BIO Advisory Committee Meeting (AC Meeting)

See the Latest Funding Opportunities

BIO Core Programs

As a reminder, the core programs in all BIO Divisions accept proposal submissions at any time and have no deadlines. Submissions to these programs must now be made through or

Newly released

Upcoming Deadlines

Get Program Announcements and Info via Email

Colorado Wildfire
The NSF Discovery Files Logo showing several instruments popping out of a filing cabinet drawer
An illustration of a tablet, mobile phone, notebook and other objects along with the NSF logo and NSF 101.

Check Out More Science Stories

From broader impacts to innovative ways to explain biological​ science, NSF and the community are​ communicating the value of fundamental research. Check out these recent stories!

Science Matters: Wildfire and Climate Change: A Burning Issue

Wildfires are a nearly constant threat to lives, homes and business – an impact that cannot be diminished – but they are also a threat to ecosystems and climates.

Discovery Files Radio Features

Several BIO-funded discoveries have been selected for inclusion in NSF’s Discovery Files radio features. Click the links below to hear about the various topic.

Batty Mosquitoes: Batty blood-sucking skeeters follow their nose

Digitizing Biology!: 5 million plants over 200 years have a story to tell.

Vaccine Spray!: Hate needles? A new COVID Vaccine could be inhaled.

NSF 101: The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

GRFP​ is one of NSF’s oldest programs. Fellowships were first awarded in 1952 and predate NSF’s first awards for research grants.

Connect with BIO

Each division hosts regular office hours on topics of relevance to the community that provide investigators the opportunity to communicate with and ask questions of program officers. Notices are posted on, and more information is available on each division’s blog.​

To get the latest on what’s happening in BIO​ and learn about announcements, opportunities, upcoming deadlines and more, visit our directorate page.

BIO Divisions

Division of Biological Infrastructure​ (DBI)
DBI supports development and enhancement of resources for research, human capital, and mid-to-large-scale infrastructure and centers to promote advances in all areas of biological research.

Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences​ (MCB)
MCB supports quantitative and interdisciplinary approaches to deciphering the molecular underpinnings of complex living systems.

Division of Environmental Biology​ (DEB)
DEB supports fundamental evolutionary and ecological research on species, populations, communities and ecosystems, across all spatial and temporal scales.

Emerging Frontiers​ (EF)
EF supports multidisciplinary research opportunities and networking activities that arise from advances in disciplinary research.

Division of Integrative Organismal Systems​ (IOS)
IOS supports fundamental research aimed at understanding organisms as units of biological organization, encouraging the use of integrative, interdisciplinary approaches to solving complex problems in organismal biology

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