Deans Corner, May 2023

Sonia Altizer

Spring at the Odum School has been eventful, and finals and graduation are just around the corner. A few highlights of the past month include: 

  • UGA’s annual CURO symposium, which featured talks and posters by 20 Ecology undergraduate students at the Classic Center in downtown Athens
  • A full Ecology Auditorium for the 37th annual Odum Lecture featuring Dr. Ivette Perfecto’s presentation “Food Systems at a Crossroads: Producing Food and Conserving our Planet”
  • A successful Dawg Day of Giving on March 30, doubling gifts from last year and increasing Ecology’s alumni participation rate
  • Graduate and professional student appreciation week, with a special Coffee Hour to recognize Ecology’s M.S. and Ph.D. students
  • A day-long DEI workshop on Five Shifts in Research and Teaching Practices towards a More Inclusive and Ethical Ecology
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships awarded to two current Ecology graduate students
  • A graduate-student led Odum Bake-Off
  • An Earth Week media initiative highlighting the Odum School’s research and teaching activities including the Sustainability Certificate and the student-led EcoReach program
  • A spirited Spring Fling that awarded 26 undergraduate and 22 graduate students with scholarships, research grants and travel awards, all of which are made possible by the generosity of Ecology donors 

UGA Honors Week took place April 17-21 with a series of events to celebrate the recipients of university-level awards, including research, graduate students, undergraduates and alumni. The Odum School of Ecology is proud to acknowledge the members of our community who were recognized during Honors Week for their scholarship, teaching and mentoring in pursuit of academic excellence.

  • Dr. Krista Capps was one of three UGA faculty members who received a Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the Provost’s Office. Russell Awards recognize outstanding teaching by faculty early in their academic careers. Dr. Capps was also named a UGA-CTL Senior Teaching Fellow this past year.
  • Dr. Andy Davis received the inaugural UGA Research Communications Award from the Office of Research, which recognizes outstanding personal effort in promoting impact and significance of research activity to audiences both outside and inside the university.
  • Drs. Ali Injaian and Seth Wenger were honored at the 2023 UGA Faculty Recognition Banquet as the Odum School of Ecology’s Outstanding Teaching Faculty. Dr. Injaian was recognized for outstanding instruction in service learning and overall innovative teaching approaches. Dr. Wenger was recognized for strong mentoring of students, and developing translational courses that are leading to professional opportunities for students.
April 2023 events in the Odum School of Ecology included: Top L: 37th annual Odum Lecture speaker Ivette Perfecto, with Ecology faculty members Krista Capps, Richard Hall, and Sonia Altizer; Top R: Ecology Earth Week 2023 sticker; Bottom L: DEI workshop participants Ford Ballantyne, Alex Primo, Julie Gunby, Matt Pierce and Izzy Ragonese; Bottom R: Ecology’s Dawg Day of Giving table with Melissa Lee, Allyson Mann, Ethan Hackmeyer, Alli Injaian, and Kathryn Juras.
  • Carolyn Cummins was one of 16 finalists for the UGA Excellence in Teaching Award in 2023. This highly competitive award given by CTL and the Graduate School recognizes UGA graduate students who have demonstrated superior teaching skills and contributed to teaching beyond their own classroom responsibilities.
  • Graduate students Matt Pierce, Doreen Chaussadas, and Kristen Zemaitis were honored with Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards at the 2023 Graduate School Recognition Luncheon. The awards were given by CTL/OVPI in conjunction with the Graduate School recognizes teaching assistants who demonstrate superior instructional skills while serving in the classroom or laboratory.
  • At the annual Presidential Honors Week luncheon, Skye Remko (B.S. Ecology) received the UGA Presidential Award of Excellence. The Presidential Award of Excellence is given to undergraduate students in their final year of study who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, strong extracurricular involvement, and/or service to and involvement in their respective school or college. Justin Weimorts (B.S. Ecology, B.S. Biology) achieved the designation of First Honor Graduate at UGA by maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout his undergraduate studies.
  • At the Morehead Honors College banquet, recognizing winter 2022 and spring/summer 2023 graduates, Tejas Reddy (B.S. Ecology, B.S. Biology) was recognized for achieving highest honors upon graduation. Reddy completed an honors thesis with Dr. Amanda Spivak in Marine Sciences.
  • Also graduating from the Honors College with honors this spring are Caroline Anscombe (B.S. Ecology); Emma Barfield (A.B. Ecology, A.B. International Affairs); Benjamin Frick (A.B. Ecology), Elijah Dwoskin (B.S. Ecology and B.S.E.S. Environmental Economics and Management), Molly Mulhern (A.B. Ecology, B.B.A. International Business and Marketing), Kelli Osajima (B.S. Biology, B.S. Ecology), and James Secor (B.S. Ecology, B.S. Biology).

Congratulations to all of the 2023 Honors Week awardees—we are thrilled to celebrate your accomplishments with you!

Left: At the Presidential Honors Week luncheon, Skye Remko and Justin Weimorts were recognized for their achievements. Right: At the UGA Research Awards banquet, Andy Davis received the Research Communications Award.

One of the most anticipated events this spring was the Odum School’s Spring Fling awards celebration, held on April 21. This year’s theme was Eco-Con, and guests came dressed as their favorite superhero, comic character or fantasy theme. Refreshments and dinner were followed by an awards presentation, and the evening wrapped up with music by Odum’s favorite band, Basementality. I would like to extend a huge thanks to this year’s organizing committee (Kelsey Vaughn, Julie Gunby, Joanne Greenway, Leslie Sitz, Allyson Mann, Ben Taylor Melissa Lee) and the incredible MC, Lewis Bartlett—and another round of applause to the 2023 award winners!

Awards to graduate students

Doctoral student Anuja Mital and master’s student Viviana Bravo received the Graduate Diversity Award in Ecology, established by Prof. Emeritus Dave Coleman and Fran Coleman to support diversity and inclusion in the graduate program.

Doctoral student Nathan (Nate) Tomczyk received the Best Student Paper award for “Contrasting activation energies of litter-associated respiration and P uptake drive lower cumulative P uptake at higher temperatures,” published in Biogeosciences in 2023.

Doctoral students Carolyn Cummins, Laura Naslund and Nathan (Nate) Tomczyk received the Environmental Policy Award, to recognize outstanding contributions to environmental policy research and development.

Doctoral student Daniel Suh and master’s student Jasmine Longmire received the Golley Memorial Graduate Award, which is given in memory of the former director of the Institute of Ecology in recognition of demonstrated leadership qualities.

BioGeoFeminists: Laura Naslund, Olivia Allen, Amy Rosemond, and Carolyn Cummins. Bottom L: Student ambassadors Isaac Woods, Paige Robinson, Ethan Hackmeyer and Sam Dilley (in waffle capes) with faculty mentor Alli Injaian. Bottom R: Supraja Rajagopal with Spring Fling MC Lewis Bartlett (a.k.a. Poison Ivy).

The Georgia Power Horseshoe Bend Award was presented to doctoral student Nathan Ashley, to support research and scientific exploration at the Horseshoe Bend field site.

Doctoral students Laura Naslund and Alyssa Quan received Meyer-Helfman Graduate Travel Awards, to support graduate students working at the intersection of science, policy and conservation.

Graduate Student Research Grants were awarded to Jordan Argrett, Nathan Ashley, Christian Brown, Dan Cryan, Erik Jones, Alyssa Quan, Shishir Rao, Kelsey Vaughn and Anna Willoughby. Odum School graduate travel grants were presented to Laura Naslund and Cali Wilson.

Graduate students were also recognized for honors from beyond the Odum School. Doctoral student Megan Tomamichel was selected as an SEC Emerging Scholar this year. Master’s student Julia Sharapi and doctoral student Matt Pierce received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, and doctoral student Katie Schroeder received an NSF GRFP honorable mention.

Awards to Undergraduates

Will Ellis received the Josh Laerm Memorial Outstanding Undergraduate Award, given in memory of a former director of the Georgia Museum of Natural History to honor outstanding contributions to research and service in the school.

The Thelma Richardson and Frank Golley Undergraduate Support Award, given to encourage individual excellence in undergraduate studies, was awarded to Ethan Hackmeyer and Sam Dilley.

Isabella Pellicano, Paige Robinson, Amelia Shugart and Birkley Heynan received the Ron Carroll and Carol Hoffman Costa Rica Travel Award, given to support students in the Odum School who travel to Costa Rica as part of the Tropical Ecology programs.

The Seydel Award in Sustainability and Conservation was given to Sydney Speir, to recognize contributions to new sustainability initiatives.

The first-ever James W. and Karen G. Porter Research Award was made to Kate Moore, to recognize outstanding undergraduate ecological research.

In addition, Ecology major Margaret Xiao was named to the Blue Key Honor Society. Odum School Experiential Learning Awards were made to Sam Dilley, Luke Grider, C.J. Jones, Caitlin McCain, Alexander Hall, Vianne Galban, Reina Scott, Jayce Marino, Ricardo Monsalve, Austin Gross, Skyler DeWtt, David Adle, Christa May and Chelsey Burks. Odum School Research and Travel grants were awarded to Kate Moore, Will Ellis and Molly Botting.

The 2022-23 Odum School ambassadors were recognized for their service: Caroline Anscombe, Sam Dilley, Ethan Hackmeyer, Skye Remko, Paige Robinson, Isaac Wood and Margaret Xiao. We also honored Ecology’s two peer learning assistants, Will Ellis and Kate Moore.

Awards to Faculty and Staff

Interim Dean Altizer recognized two long-term faculty members who are retiring at the end of this academic year. John Gittleman is an internationally known expert in biodiversity and conservation who led the Odum School of Ecology from 2006-2021, first as director of the then-Institute of Ecology, and later as the Odum School’s first dean. Cathy Pringle is a distinguished faculty member who spearheaded groundbreaking work on responses of tropical freshwater systems to species loss. She has been a faculty member in Ecology at UGA since 1993, and has had a remarkable impact on the field of freshwater science and mentoring of students throughout her career. The Odum School looks forward to staying connected with Cathy and John as they transition to retirement and pursue future interests.

Joanne Greenway, the Odum School’s front office specialist, and Jenna Jones, Ecology’s grants coordinator, were named Employee of the Year in recognition of significant contributions to the success and well-being of Odum School programs during the past year.

The Keystone Staff Award, formerly known as the Purple Heart Award, is presented by Ecology graduate students to a staff member who fulfills the role of a keystone species in the Odum ecosystem—a species without which “the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether,” as described in National Geographic. This year’s award was given to graduate advisor Julie Gunby.

The Dean’s Award was given to Interim IT Director Tyler Ingram and Executive Assistant Leslie Sitz for service and dedication in directing unit-level operations, particularly throughout the period of high staff turnover in the Odum School this past year.

Photo and costume contests

Two of the winning photos from the 2023 Ecology Photo Contest: Reef 21 Cleaning Station Composite by Dan Cryan (L) and Cartoon Eyes by Julia Berliner (R).

This year’s Ecology Photo Contest was organized by doctoral student Kelsey Vaughn. Winners were chosen by popular vote in six categories. Doctoral student Dan Cryan won in three categories: “Study organism or site” for Reef 21 Cleaning Station Composite (Moorea, French Polynesia); “Doing Science” for Hammering Nails (Moorea, French Polynesia); and “Nature” for Rocky Point Sunset (Rocky Point Park, Warwick). Research professional Julia Berliner won in the “Science superhero” category for Not all heroes wear capes, but they’re all happy to see legless lizards! (Wormsloe Historic Site, Savannah, GA) and also won the “On the lookout” category for Cartoon Eyes (Sapelo Island, GA). Friend of Ecology Don Hunter won in the “Naturalist Pic of the Year” (for photos submitted to iNaturalist) for Nomad Bee (Athens, GA).

Finally, the tradition of the costume contest continued. The Marvel-ous heroes (the Altizer- Davis family), Owen Davis and C.J. Jones all won by popular acclaim.

 Top: The Marvel-ous Davis-Altizer family as Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, Spider Man, and the Red Dragon. Bottom: Basementality performing with (from left) Christian Swartzbaugh, Jeb Byers, Ron Balthazor, and Jason Roberts.

The evening concluded with music from the ’70s, ’80s and beyond by Basementality, a VERY local rock band featuring Jeb Byers on guitar and vocals, Christian Swartzbaugh on keyboards, retired English faculty member and former director of the Sustainability Certificate Program Ron Balthazor on drums, and Jason Roberts, a faculty member in the religion department who teaches courses on sustainability, on bass. They were joined by special guest performer Pej Rohani on lead guitar.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who planned, supported and ran the Odum School’s events this past month. Congratulations again to Ecology’s many honorees and award winners—and to everyone in the Odum School community for your commitment to learning and student engagement, inspiring research discoveries, and your continual focus on making the world a better place.