Odum School recognizes outstanding students, faculty, staff at Spring Fling 2022

Ecology students and staff stand before a banner reading "Earth Day Environmental Teach-In." Photo: Ben Taylor.

The Odum School of Ecology celebrated the accomplishments and creativity of students, faculty and staff at the annual Spring Fling awards dinner on April 29. This year’s theme was Earth Day 1970. Prof. Amy Rosemond and Lab Coordinator Kait Farrell presented the awards on behalf of the Odum School.

Awards to graduate students

Doctoral student Jordan Argrett received the Graduate Diversity Award in Ecology, established by Prof. Emeritus Dave Coleman and Fran Coleman to support diversity in the graduate program.

2022 doctoral graduate Dessa (Dunn) Benson received the Best Student Paper award for “Forest dynamics models for conservation, restoration, and management of small forests,” published in a Special Issue on “Simulation Models of the Dynamics of Forest Ecosystems” of the journal Forests, March 2022.

Doctoral student Carolyn Cummins received the Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching award as well as the Golley Memorial Graduate Award, which is given in memory of the former director of the Institute of Ecology in recognition of demonstrated leadership qualities.

Student Research Large Grants (from $1,000-$5,000) were awarded to Shelby Bauer, a master’s student in the Integrative Conservation and Sustainability program, and to doctoral student Maria Luisa Müller Theissen.

Student Research Small Grants (up to $1,000) went to Argrett and doctoral students Michael Belovitch, Laura Naslund, TJ Odom and Katie Schroeder.

Odum Travel Grants were awarded to master’s students Viviana Bravo (Integrative Conservation and Sustainability) and Max Kelly and Emma Kelsick (Ecology.)

Graduate students were also recognized for honors from beyond the Odum School. Doctoral student Carol Yang received the 2022 Excellence in Teaching Award from the UGA Graduate School. Yang, Cummins and Alyssa Quan, a doctoral student in ICON and Ecology, were the recipients of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the UGA Office of Instruction. Benjamin Taylor, a master’s student in Ecology, won the James L. Carmon Scholarship Honorable Mention from the UGA Office of Research, given for using computers in innovative ways. Doctoral student Rebecca Atkins was named to the Blue Key Honor Society. Corinne Sweeney, a master’s student in Ecology, was honored with the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award from the Ecological Society of America. 2022 master’s graduate Caroline Aikins received a Presidential Management Fellowship from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Receiving UGA Graduate School Summer Research Grants for Doctoral Students were Juliana Hoyos, Maria Luisa Müller Theissen, Kiersten Nelson, Kelly Petersen and Anna Willoughby.

Awards to Undergraduates

Christopher Brandon, a B.S. ecology spring 2022 graduate, received the Josh Laerm Memorial Outstanding Undergraduate Award, given in memory of a former professor of ecology and director of the Georgia Museum of Natural History.

The Thelma Richardson and Frank Golley Undergraduate Support Award, given to encourage individual excellence in undergraduate studies, was awarded to A.B. student Amanda Budd and B.S. student Sydney Speir.

Brandon and Kelly Nguyen (B.S.) received the Ron Carroll and Carol Hoffman Costa Rica Travel Award, given to support students in the Odum School who travel to Costa Rica as part of the Tropical Ecology Maymester or Tropical Biology fall semester programs.

B.S. students David Adle, Christopher Brandon, Skyler DeWitt, Emilie Dudgeon, Alexander Hall, Kelly Nguyen, Skye Remko, Sydney Speir, Ally Whiteis and Isaac Wood and A.B. students Budd, Austin Goss and Ethan Hackmeyer received support from the Odum School Experiential Learning Program for expenses related to pursuing study abroad or away, internships, conference travel, and other experiential learning endeavors.

In addition, B.S. ecology spring graduate Elizabeth Esser was recognized as a recipient of the UGA Presidential Award of Excellence, which honors one student in the school who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and involvement in ecology.

Awards to Faculty and Staff

Jennifer Mathews, the Odum School’s HR liaison, was named Employee of the Year in recognition of significant contributions to the success and well-being of Odum School programs during the past year.

Lecturer Scott Connelly and Assistant Research Scientist Andy Davis received the UGA Outstanding Faculty Instructor of the Year award.

Faculty were also recognized by the university of Georgia with a number of honors for their research, teaching, and service. Amy Rosemond was named Distinguished Research Professor. Lecturer and Undergraduate Coordinator Amanda Rugenski received a Creative Teaching Award from the UGA Office of Instruction. Connelly received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the UGA Disability Resource Center. Meigs Professor and Associate Dean Jeb Byers received the Lamar Dodd Creative Research Award from the UGA Office of Research and was named a  Lothar Tresp Honors Professor. Rugenski and Asst. Prof. Krista Capps received UGA Active Learning Fellowships, and Lecturer Alli Injaian received a UGA Service Learning Fellowship. Finally, Capps was named to the UGA Women in STEM Leadership Program.

Special Awards

The Keystone Staff Award, formerly known as the Purple Heart Award, is presented by Ecology graduate students to a staff member who fulfills the role of a keystone species in the Odum ecosystem—a species without which “the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether,” as described in National Geographic. This year’s award, presented by doctoral student  Supraja Rajagopal, was given to IT Director Brian Perkins and IT Professional Principal Tyler Ingram for their tireless efforts throughout the year to upgrade and improve Odum’s computers, classrooms, and networks, and their unfailingly helpful attitudes.

The Dean’s Award was given to Communications Coordinator Beth Gavrilles for service and dedication in directing communications, particularly throughout the disruptions caused by Covid-19.

This year also saw the return of the Ecology Photo Contest, which was organized by doctoral student Anna Willoughby. Winners were chosen by popular vote in seven categories. Doctoral student Doreen Chaussadas won in the “Abiotic Aggression” and “Data Disaster” categories for Red Sky and Data Feast, respectively. Postdoctoral Associate Jason Donaldson won in the “Birds” category for Incoming. Friend of Ecology Ashley Callahan won in the “Naturalist Pic of the Year” (for photos submitted to iNaturalist) for Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae). In the “Pandemic Pic” category, the winner was graduating master’s student Kelly Ridenhour for Fireflies in Connally. Doctoral student Andrew Nagy won in the “Pic of the Litter” category for Local Flavor: Spawning Yellowfin Shiners in Athens, and doctoral student Izzy Ragonese won in the “Two Peas in a Pod” category for Two Pupa in a Pod.

The "Hippie Dippie" family stands in front of a banner reading "Earth Day Environmental Teach-In" at Flinchum's Phoenix. Photo: Ben Taylor.
The “Hippie Dippie” family. Photo: Ben Taylor

Finally, the tradition of the costume contest continued. The Hippie Dippies (the Altizer- Davis family), Sun and Sunflower (Isaac Wood and CJ Hannan), and Rock Stars (undergraduates Lindsay Jason, Preston Harden, Kate Moore and Sam Nestor) all won by popular acclaim in the grown-up category, while Oscar Davis – the “still extinct in 1970” T-Rex – won in the kids section.

Rock stars stand in front of the Earth Day Environmental Teach-In banner. Photo: Ben Taylor.
Two of the Rock Stars. Photo: Ben Taylor.

The evening concluded with music from the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond by Basementality, a local—VERY local—rock band featuring Prof. Jeb Byers on guitar and vocals, Ecology doctoral student Christian Swartzbaugh on keyboards, retired English faculty member and former director of the Sustainability Certificate Program Ron Balthazor drums, and Jason Roberts, a faculty member in the Religion department who teaches courses on sustainability, on bass. They were joined by special guest performers Hannah Hall, a biology major, on vocals and Prof. Pej Rohani on lead guitar.

The hyper-local rock band Basementality performs a sound check at Flinchum's Phoenix. L-R: Christian Swartzbaugh, Ron Balthazor, Jeb Byers, and Pej Rohani. Photo: Ben Taylor.
Basementality performs a sound check at Flinchum’s Phoenix. Photo: Ben Taylor.