Nicole Gottdenker, Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia, recently received the Wildlife Disease Association Graduate Student Scholarship Award. The $2,000 award was presented for leadership, scholarship and service at the 57th annual meeting of the Wildlife Disease Association held in Alberta, Canada.
“Since veterinary school, I have been dedicated to the study of the ecology and pathology of wildlife diseases,” said Gottdenker. “My current research interests include the effect of land use change on infectious disease transmission and how parasites affect ecosystem function. It is a great honor to be recognized for my contributions in this field.”
Gottdenker’s doctoral project studies the effects of deforestation on infectious disease transmission in the parasite causing Chagas disease. In Latin America, over 10 million people are infected with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. Gottdenker’s research suggests that deforestation can increase the abundance and percentage of vectors that become infected.
“Dating back to the controversy of whether Darwin contracted Chagas disease on his historic journey on the Beagle, this disease has not been properly studied from an ecological perspective. Nicole’s research is groundbreaking and now we know much more about the nature of Chagas,” said Odum School of Ecology Dean John Gittleman.
Gottdenker received her D.V.M. degree from Tuskegee University. She is board-certified in Anatomic Pathology by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. Her current research is funded by an EPA STAR Graduate Research Fellowship, a Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Scientific Research Award and a Dissertation Completion Award from the UGA Graduate School. The work was also done in collaboration with the Parasitology Department at the Gorgas Institute in Panama.
With roots that date back to the 1950s, the UGA Odum School of Ecology offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a certification program. Founder Eugene P. Odum is recognized internationally as a pioneer of ecosystem ecology. The school is ranked tenth by U.S. News and World Report for its graduate program. The Odum School is the first standalone school of ecology in the world. For more information, see http://www.ecology.uga.edu.