Dean’s Corner, November 2021

Sonia Altizer,

Contact: Sonia Altizer,

Seating area in the dean's office with comfortable chairs, plants, framed pictures, and a butterfly throw pillow.

Giving Tuesday (November 30) is a day when people from all over the world unite in generosity and kindness to support the causes they love. In the Odum School, we’ve asked friends and alumni to help us meet our Giving Tuesday goal of raising $20,000 to support our undergraduate and graduate students. Resources like paid internships, travel and research grants, and expanded experiential learning are crucial for ensuring students receive the training and opportunities needed to succeed in their discoveries and career aspirations. Earlier this month, Odum School faculty kicked off our giving campaign by contributing nearly $4,000! Thank you to those who have given already – your gifts are helping us to enrich our student experiences. For those who haven’t given yet, there is still time to make a gift to the Odum School of Ecology, either online or by check! Gifts made to the Ecology Fund will support undergraduate internships, study away, and experiential learning, and gifts to the Graduate Student Support Fund will go towards supporting graduate student research and travel to workshops and conferences.

#GivingTuesday above line drawings of a butterfly, oak leaf, ginkgo leaves, flower, fountain, pinecone, and bird.

Did you know that the Odum School has 22 distinguished emeritus and retired faculty, most of whom live near Athens, GA? On November 10, we were delighted to host a picnic lunch at Horseshoe Bend for our emeritus faculty. Guests included Dac Crossley, Dave Coleman, Carl Jordan, John Pickering, Karen Porter, Jim Porter, Bruce Wallace, and Bernie Patten. We learned about new and ongoing research projects at the Horseshoe Bend field site: Jackie Mohan described studies of forest soil chemistry; Taka Sasaki presented a tutorial on learning and movement in homing pigeons; and Alex Strauss explained recent findings on fungal symbionts of field grasses and future plans to develop freshwater mesocosm experiments at the site. Dave Coleman shared historical study designs and field anecdotes from past work at Horseshoe Bend. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and hear how emeritus faculty are staying engaged in the community, continuing with science, and keeping active in other pursuits. We hope that this will be the first of several opportunities for the Odum School to engage with our emeritus faculty in the coming year.

Emeritus faculty at a picnic lunch at Horseshoe Bend. Photo: Sonia Altizer.

Ecology students and faculty were thrilled to travel to Costa Rica from August to November this year for a fall semester abroad. Lecturer Amanda Rugenski coordinated the program with the help of PhD student Carolyn Cummins. Eleven ecology students traveled safely to the CIEE field station in San Luis, located near a tropical mountain cloud forest on the Continental divide. Throughout the 12-week program, students visited the Monteverde cloud forest, the Children’s Eternal rainforest, a lowland tropical forest, and the Pacific Coast at La Ensenada/Paolo Verde. Faculty members Jeb Byers and Sonia Hernandez taught parts of the fall semester, which included ECOL 3530 (Conservation Biology), ECOL 3500 (General Ecology), ECOL 3100 (Tropical Field Ecology), and WILD 4060 (Ornithology). Students participated in day and night hikes, ziplining, coffee and chocolate tours, amphibian surveys, and avian and bat mist netting. They learned about Costa Rica conservation, sustainable farming, dams, and hydropower. The group of students and instructors followed careful COVID protocols, traveled safely, and were able to keep the academic rigor and fun expected of our study away programs. Following on the successful fall experience, we can’t wait to offer the Ecology Maymester study away program in Costa Rica in 2022!

Ecology students on a hill in Costa Rica, jumping. Photo: Amanda Rugenski.

As a final note, during this season of gratitude, I am thankful for the amazing faculty, staff and students that make the Odum School of Ecology a dynamic and exciting place. Every day that I walk into the Ecology Building, I see people smiling and engaged in meetings and conversation in the lobby and courtyard. I see bustling labs filled with eager and energetic students. I see thriving undergraduate degree programs, and graduate programs with some of the best ecology students in the country. I see staff that are dedicated to supporting our mission of discovery and collaboration. I see a school and research centers with outstanding academic reputations. And I see people developing innovative science that cuts across diverse scales of biological organization, crosses geographic boundaries, and pioneers ambitious methodological approaches.

The Ecology building. Photo: Sonia Altizer.

This year has been a hard one for us, and our community. Many of us experienced higher levels of stress owing to circumstances beyond our control. And yet, despite these challenges, I have watched and admired the strength, resilience, and dedication that members of the Odum School of Ecology brought to their research labs, offices, and classrooms. The ideas, optimism and courage of members of our school inspire me every day. I hope this holiday season brings everyone the space to rest and rejuvenate with friends and loved ones. Thank you to our Odum School family, alumni, and friends for making this a fantastic place to discover, work, and learn.