Dean’s Corner, October 2022

Sonia Altizer,

Contact: Sonia Altizer,

The fall semester is in full swing here in the Odum School of Ecology, showcasing a number of exciting activities and events. Following student orientation and Ecology’s annual faculty retreat in August, the Odum School held our Welcome Back Ice Cream Social on Sept. 1. Ecology students, staff, and faculty gathered near the turtle pond to enjoy cold treats, a friendly competition of Odum School Bingo, a raffle with prizes, and yard games. The undergraduate program held its fall Odum Cabin Retreat sponsored by the Ecology Undergraduate Mentor Program on Sept. 10. About two dozen students came to Spring Hollow for dinner on Saturday night and stayed overnight at the historic log house bestowed to Ecology by Gene and Martha Odum. Sunday started off with an outdoor yoga class, coffee and breakfast overlooking the beautiful wooded property.

undergraduates at ecology cabin
Odum Undergraduate Cabin Retreat 2022

On Sept. 16-17, the River Basin Center hosted a Policy Symposium to celebrate UGA as a world leader in water policy development. The event’s theme was “Advancing equity in water policy,” with inspiring talks by speakers within and outside of UGA, including Laurie Fowler, emeritus professor and former RBC Director of Policy. The event was attended by over 120 participants and co-sponsored by the Schools of Ecology, Law, and Public and International Affairs. The second day’s agenda featured a workshop to discuss alternative models for integrative, applied learning to build on the legacy of Laurie’s highly successful Environmental Practicum course.

Ecology welcomed members of the Odum School’s Alumni Board Working Group for their first in-person meeting in Athens on Sept. 15. The agenda included discussions on mission statement and goals, focus group meetings with current Odum School members, a facilities tour, and a Q&A session with UGA Alumni Affairs director Meredith Johnson. As the day ended, working group members connected with Ecology undergraduates enrolled in the Professional Development for Careers in Ecology course, followed by a reception in the Ecology Courtyard.

Against the backdrop of fall classes and events, Ecology welcomed two new faculty members, and launched two faculty searches. Assistant Professor Sechindra Vallury started a position as Director of Policy at the River Basin Center, and Assistant Research Scientist Lewis Bartlett began a joint appointment with Ecology and the Department of Entomology. Ecology is currently searching for a Quantitative Disease Ecologist (Open Rank), and a Community Ecologist (Assistant Professor), to join the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases in August 2023. Interviews of finalists will take place over the coming months. This search is part of a university-wide Presidential Interdisciplinary Cluster Hire Initiative in the area of artificial intelligence and data science. As part of a cluster focused on the dynamics of infectious diseases, Ecology is partnering with three other colleges on campus to recruit eight new faculty colleagues in total.

Autumn brings many changes. One change for Ecology has been the recruitment of several staff positions following the retirement and departures of core staff members. We sadly bid farewell to longtime communications coordinator Beth Gavrilles, development coordinator Allison Walters, financial director Mica Turner, and several business operations staff members. Current staff members came together to cover core operations while the unit developed plans to rebuild our Odum School team. On Oct. 4, we welcomed communications director Allyson Mann, who joined Ecology from UGA’s Office of Research, where she was lead editor of the Research Magazine and Senior Public Relations Coordinator for Research Communications. Ecology looks forward to welcoming additional staff members in November, as we lay the groundwork for future growth and development.

Dean Altizer holding EcoVoice magazine
EcoVoice magazine 2021-2022 cover of Yellowfin shiners (photograph by M.S. student Andrew Nagy)

I hope that Odum School members, friends and alumni enjoyed reading the 2021-22 Ecovoice Magazine that was mailed earlier this month, celebrating our community’s research and teaching achievements this past year. The current issue of Ecovoice features several articles on student engagement and learning experiences, including the Fall 2021 Costa Rica study away program, the Maymester 2022 AB Problem Solving course on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, Ecology students taking action through service-learning courses, and undergraduate research. Research highlights include work on Joro spider ecology, plant responses to climate change, and nutrient impacts on mountain stream ecosystems. I certainly am proud of the innovation, collaboration and resilience I see around the Odum School every day. And we especially love hearing from alumni near and far—so wherever you are, please share your news with us, and know that you are welcome to come visit with us the next time you are in Athens!