Odum Faculty Members Named UGA Athletic Association Professors

Beth Gavrilles, [email protected]

Contact: Vanessa Ezenwa, [email protected]; Olin “Gene” Rhodes, [email protected]

Two faculty members in the Odum School of Ecology, Vanessa Ezenwa and Olin “Gene” Rhodes, have been named University of Georgia Athletic Association Professors.

With their appointments, which were recently approved by the Board of Regents, the Odum School now holds four Athletic Association professorships.

Ezenwa’s research explores the ecology of infectious diseases in wild animal populations, at scales from the molecular to entire communities. She and her students study how behavioral, physiological, and ecological processes at the individual level shape interactions between hosts and their parasites, and the consequences for population and community-wide patterns of disease. Ongoing research includes a study of African buffalo that are infected by parasitic worms as well as microbes to understand how co-infection affects host and parasite fitness.

Ezenwa directs the Interdisciplinary Disease Ecology Across Scales, or IDEAS, doctoral training program, which is funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. IDEAS is an interdisciplinary partnership involving faculty and students from the Odum School, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Public Health, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the department of microbiology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, among others. It trains students to solve problems in infectious disease biology that manifest at multiple scales of biological organization, and involves professional development activities such as internships and training in science communication.

Rhodes, the director of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, conducts multidisciplinary research that spans genetics, conservation biology, wildlife ecology and applied ecology, and has produced more than 200 scholarly publications. He has received recognition for his teaching and research, and his work has been highlighted hundreds of times in the popular media, including coverage by USA TODAY, ABC News, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Throughout his career he has advised twenty-seven graduate students, eleven postdoctoral researchers, and provided experiential learning opportunities for more than forty undergraduate students.

Since being named director in 2012, he has rebuilt SREL into a highly productive and internationally recognized ecological research center while strengthening ties with academic units on the main UGA campus. Under his leadership, SREL’s external research funding has nearly quadrupled, and the number of faculty, staff and students has grown from 46 when he arrived to more than 150 today. He has also more than doubled SREL’s community engagement, with outreach programs now reaching 70,000 people annually.

Ezenwa and Rhodes join professors Sonia Altizer and Pejman Rohani as the Odum School’s Athletic Association Professors.