James E. (Jeb) Byers, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Ecology, has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the organization announced on Jan. 26.
Byers was recognized for “distinguished contributions to the field of ecology, particularly in invasion biology, parasite ecology, ecosystem engineers, and range boundaries in marine environments, as well as excellence in teaching,” according to the announcement.
He is one of three UGA faculty selected for the honor. The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows also includes Jessica Kissinger of the UGA department of genetics and Patricia Yager of the UGA department of marine sciences.
“AAAS is proud to bestow the honor of AAAS Fellow to some of today’s brightest minds who are integral to forging our path into the future,” said Dr. Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We celebrate these distinguished individuals for their invaluable contributions to the scientific enterprise.”
Byers’s interests are wide-ranging. His research focuses on understanding the impacts of non-indigenous species in marine communities they’ve invaded. Other projects include studying the effects of parasites on ecological communities; examining the impacts of ecosystem engineers (species that significantly modify their habitat), and contributing to advances in marine conservation biology.
Ecology emeritus professor Alan Covich, who nominated Byers for this honor, described him as “an outstanding scholar, mentor, and teacher with a strong national and international reputation.”
“His groundbreaking research and interdisciplinary projects have enhanced our understanding of large-scale ecological dynamics,” Covich wrote in his letter of nomination. “Jeb is widely recognized as a leader in the field of quantitative population ecology, ecosystem engineering, ecological impacts of parasitology on a wide range of hosts, and shifts in species range boundaries in response to climatic changes and other environmental conditions.”
Byers has published extensively, with more than 130 papers in scientific journals including Science, Nature Ecology and Evolution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Ecology Letters. His many honors include being named a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and a Fulbright Fellow in 2017.
Byers has also received numerous awards for teaching, including the Felton Jenkins, Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award from the University System of Georgia; the Meigs Professorship, Richard B. Russell Teaching Award, Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring Award and Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award from the University of Georgia; and has twice been named the Outstanding Instructor of the Year by his colleagues in the Odum School.
“Jeb also has an exceptional capacity to mentor undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral researchers. He has taken active role in expanding our Honors Program and has helped many students to appreciate the value of experiential learning and to develop their own research interests,” Covich wrote. “I know firsthand from my previous [experience] in team teaching with Jeb in our large-enrollment introductory ecology course (ECOL 3500) that his teaching skills are unparalleled.”
Byers, who is also Associate Dean for Research and Operations in the Odum School of Ecology, joins Sonia Altizer (2020), Gary Barrett (1990), Alan Covich (2000), John Drake (2018), Whit Gibbons (2009), Patricia Adair Gowaty (2004), James Porter (1983), Catherine Pringle (2009) and Pejman Rohani (2018), as well as the late Frank Golley (1963), Lawrence Pomeroy (1960) and Richard Wiegert (1965), as the thirteenth current or emeritus Odum School faculty member so honored.