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Odum School faculty recognized for research accomplishments

Apr. 11, 2014

Writer: Beth Gavrilles, bethgav@uga.edu

Contact: John Drake, jdrake@uga.edu and Andrew Park, awpark@uga.edu

Odum School of Ecology faculty members John M. Drake and Andrew W. Park were recognized by the University of Georgia Research Foundation for extraordinary accomplishments in research and scholarship. Drake was awarded a Creative Research Medal and Park received an inaugural Michael F. Adams Early Career Scholar Award at a ceremony on April 10.

John M. Drake, an associate professor in the Odum School of Ecology, is an internationally recognized expert in population dynamics. He is particularly well known for his program of experimental research into the causes of population extinction. Drake's work provided the first experimental support for a longstanding theoretical conjecture and resulted in the description of several new phenomena exhibited by biological populations on the brink of collapse.

This research culminated in a study proposing and showing for the first time that characteristic statistical fluctuations known as "critical slowing down" may be used to devise early warning signals of environmental deterioration. The possibility of translating these early warning signals into systems for predicting catastrophic change in diverse areas of concern-including climate, economic and financial networks, the transmission of infectious diseases and biomedicine-is implied by their generic origin.

Andrew W. Park, an associate professor in the Odum School of Ecology, engages in interdisciplinary and groundbreaking research to advance understanding of infectious diseases.

His 2009 paper in Science discussed a rare example of the connection between parasite evolution and outbreak dynamics in host populations, which involved synthesizing a large amount of isolated experiments combined with statistical modeling, anti-genic cartography and mechanistic modeling to illustrate the degree to which a few mutations in a virus can trigger outbreaks via their effects on individual hosts.

Recently, he has been establishing how environmental factors, such as climate and land use, influence disease outbreaks in human and animal populations. His lab demonstrated a novel mechanism in Lyme disease in which climate-driven tick activity drastically can change which version of the parasite will prosper across the U.S. landscape, helping to explain the burden of disease in different regions. He also has led studies on hemorrhagic disease in deer.

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