Dean’s Corner, May 2022

Sonia Altizer, saltizer@uga.edu

Contact: Sonia Altizer, saltizer@uga.edu

A rainbow appears over Sanford Stadium during UGA's undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 13, 2022. Photo: Sonia Altizer.

What a year it’s been! In May, the Odum School celebrated the accomplishments of our graduates, with 34 undergraduates and 9 graduate students receiving Ecology degrees. The Class of 2022 overcame obstacles that none of us ever imagined — against headwinds from the pandemic and braving a storm of other challenges, our students pressed on, adapted, learned new skills and made important discoveries. We’re so proud of how Ecology’s graduates handled these times with determination and perseverance. Despite the challenges of the moment, and perhaps even because of them, they are rising to meet present and future needs of local and global environmental problems, improving human and animal health, and leading the frontiers of science to better understand how the natural world operates. Graduates leaving with a degree in Ecology will be the leaders of tomorrow – whether at an NGO, a government institution, in academics, working in outreach and education, or in industry. To our graduates: we can’t wait to learn what you will do and discover next, and we hope you remember that you will always be part of the Odum School and UGA community.

Amy Rosemond and Kait Farrell presenting awards at Ecology Spring 2022. Photo: Sonia Altizer.Fling.

As the spring semester ended, Ecology celebrated the accomplishments of faculty, staff, and students. This year’s Spring Fling awards banquet was held at Flinchum’s Phoenix, with the theme of “Earth Day 1970,” in honor of the first Earth Day observed in the United States.  The 2022 event marked the return of the annual Ecology photo contest and costume contest.  At the awards dinner, Ecology recognized 22 graduate students and 14 undergraduates who received school and university-level awards, together with 8 faculty and 4 staff members.  Many of these individuals were also recognized during UGA Honors Week in late April. The Odum School of Ecology is proud to congratulate all of our award recipients this year, and celebrate their outstanding commitment to service, teaching, and research!

Ecology students at the Odum cabin during the undergraduate retreat in 2022. Photo: Allison Injaian.

Ecology students participated in activities this past month to further the Odum School’s commitment to community building within our unit, and to strengthen connections to the school’s history and engage with the broader community. In April, undergraduate Ecology majors held an end-of-semester retreat at the Spring Hollow Odum Cabin, located near Ila, Georgia. This site features a log house for gathering, reference watershed and pond, and an old-growth forest. Through the undergraduate retreat, students experienced the native flora and fauna, and unique topography of this property, and learned about its history and land management. Also in April, Ecology graduate students embarked on a weekend retreat in Savannah, Georgia, to promote student retention and inclusion. Students stayed at the UGA Center for Research and Education at Wormsloe’s campus buildings and grounds, and their agenda included a tour of historic downtown Savannah, marsh tour, kayaking, dolphin watching, and learning about coastal and wetland ecology. This event was supported in part through a UGA Graduate School Retention and Inclusion grant.

The DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, MI, the site of JASM 2022. Photo: JASM.

The Odum School is renowned for its strength in aquatic ecology research, teaching and service, and the trailblazing work by current and former faculty, research staff, and students. In May, we were thrilled to host a UGA alumni mixer at this year’s Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting (JASM) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The week-long conference featured close to 50 talks and poster presentations by current and past Odum School members, and was preceded by a field excursion of the Society for Freshwater Science’s Emerge program, based at the Odum School, led by faculty members Amy Rosemond and Amanda Rugenski. The EMERGE program focuses on mentoring and inclusion for early career scholars and students from groups historically underrepresented in the aquatic sciences. Ecology’s JASM Mixer also featured a celebration of the career of emeritus professor Alan Covich. Nearly 100 attendees turned out to honor Alan’s extraordinary contributions to tropical ecology, stream ecology, and leadership and professional service to his academic units and to the discipline of ecology.

Undergraduate Program Assistant Kathryn Juras and Development and Alumni Relations Coordinator Allison Walters at Spring Fling. Photo: Sonia Altizer.

In April and May, Ecology welcomed three new staff members to our unit, including Kathryn Juras (above, left, pictured with current director of development and alumni affairs Allison Walters). Kathryn is serving as Ecology’s new Academic Support Assistant, and joins us from her previous position in Chemistry at UGA. In Ecology, Kathryn will support our growing undergraduate program by focusing on study away program planning, student recruitment and orientation, academic programs materials, sharing opportunities to students, assisting in course scheduling, planning academic program-related events, and other needs. In May, we welcomed Cheryth Youngmann as the new River Basin Center Communications Coordinator AND communications professional for the Odum School. Cheryth will focus on the RBC’s communications plan, social media and website; will coordinate RBC events and symposia, and will produce stories on the research and other activities of Odum School members and RBC affiliates.  Finally, in June, Ecology will welcome Jenna Jones as our new grants coordinator. Jenna previously served UGA’s Sponsored Projects Administration for almost 12 years and has been Ecology’s contact for quite some time. In the Odum School, Jenna will help identify relevant sources of funding, develop and review external funding proposals, and assist in managing grants and contracts. Please join me in welcoming Kathryn, Cheryth, and Jenna to their new positions in Ecology!

Faculty members in academic regalia lining up for the convocation processional on May 13, 2022. Photo: Sonia Altizer.rocess

On behalf of the Odum School Dean’s Office, I wish Ecology’s current members, friends and alumni an exciting and rejuvenating summer, and look forward to seeing everyone back in Athens in August. Please send us your news and keep in contact, wherever your adventures take you.