Nancy A. Moran, ESA Fellow (2014)


Dr. Nancy A. Moran, the Leslie Surginer Professor of biology at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), was elected as Fellow in 2014. She is internationally recognized for her research on symbiosis between insects and bacteria. She demonstrated that intimate symbiotic associations date to the origins of major groups of insects, millions of years ago, and used genomic and experimental work to show that these associations provide hosts with essential molecules and defenses. She also contributed to our understanding of general principles of bacterial genomics and evolution, specifically showing that strictly clonal replication of symbionts leads to loss of genes and genome reduction.

Moran was born 21 December 1954 in Dallas, Texas, where she lived until beginning college at the UTA, where she received a B.A. in the interdisciplinary arts and sciences Plan II honors program in 1976. She then attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, where she obtained a Ph.D. in zoology in 1982. She was an NSF postdoctoral fellow from 1984–1986, based at Northern Arizona University. In 1986 she accepted a position as assistant professor of entomology at the University of Arizona. She remained at Arizona for 24 years, later joining the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, in which she was promoted to Regents’ Professor. In 2010, she moved to Yale University as the William H. Fleming Professor of Biology. She started her current position at UTA in August 2013.

During her graduate and postdoctoral work, Moran studied the evolution of life cycles and host plant utilization, especially in aphids. In 1990, she began work on bacterial symbioses in aphids and other insects. Currently, she investigates heritable bacterial symbionts in sap-feeding insects and also the bacterial gut symbionts living in honey bees and bumble bees. She has published more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Moran has mentored more than 30 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, almost all of which are established independent researchers, mostly focusing on insect symbioses and insect evolution. She sponsored more than 100 undergraduate researchers and taught evolutionary biology to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students. In Arizona, she established a high school research laboratory and course in which students conduct research on local insects. She served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and as an editor for several journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, PLOS Biology, PLOS Genetics, and Genome Biology and Evolution.

Moran was elected to membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology. At Arizona, she was elected as a Galileo Fellow and a Regents’ Professor, and she received the Alumni Association Extraordinary Faculty Award. In 2010, she received the International Prize for Biology from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, and in 2014 the James Tiedje Award for Lifetime Contribution in Microbial Ecology.

Moran shares a joint lab group with her husband and has a grown daughter. She enjoys art, fiction, and yoga.

(updated February, 2015)