The University of Georgia Graduate School honored Gaston “Chip” Small with its 2011 Graduate Student Excellence in Research Award in Life Sciences. Small received his doctorate from the Odum School of Ecology in 2010.
“We are extremely proud of Chip Small and his dedication to pursuing answers to his difficult yet invaluable research questions,” said Maureen Grasso, dean of the UGA Graduate School. “Even as a graduate student, his ecological research has garnered extensive national attention.”
Small’s dissertation focused on nutrient recycling in tropical stream food webs. One study from his dissertation research will be published in the journal Ecology. In the study, Small examined twelve fish species in a tropical stream in Costa Rica. He discovered that one species of fish plays a disproportionate and vital role in recycling phosphorus.
His results demonstrated how certain species are vital for the ecological health in food webs. Furthermore, his research demonstrates how a healthy ecosystem maintains an intricate balance of nutrients.
“This is the first publication to identify and quantify the role of a keystone nutrient recycler in a freshwater ecosystem and is sure to become a citation classic,” said Catherine Pringle, Distinguished Research Professor and Small’s major professor.
In total, Small’s graduate work has resulted in 10 manuscripts that are published, submitted to journals, or being prepared for submission.
After graduating from UGA, Small accepted a postdoctoral research position at the University of Minnesota where he is studying how microbes affect the long-term levels of nitrogen in Lake Superior.
The Graduate School began the Graduate Student Excellence in Research Awards in 1999 to recognize the quality and significance of graduate student research. The awards recognize research in five areas: Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Professional and Applied Sciences.
Jessica Hawks of the Office of the Vice President for Research presents the Excellence in Research Award to Chip Small at an informal ceremony after Small's flight was delayed, causing him to miss the Awards banquet. Photo by Cathy Pringle.