It has been an exciting year in EEB. Our department has grown on many fronts. First, we have recruited lots of great new people. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the five new faculty who are joining us during the 2016-17 academic year: Associate Professor Nina Fefferman and Assistant Professors Jessica Budke, Kimberly Sheldon, Mona Papes, and Xingli Giam. Jessica Budke is also the new director of the Tennessee Herbarium (TENN), stepping in as Gene Wofford retires after 40 excellent years at the helm of TENN. Jim Drake has also retired after 29 years of service to the university. Enhancements to the greenhouse facilities at Hesler and Senter Halls also include a new management team. I welcome Jeff Martin who serves as the greenhouse manager with assistance from Benny Crain, our new lecturer. Benny Crain is creating the new BIO 150 lab curriculum. Our greenhouse facility is expanding research and teaching capacity under Jeff’s management.
The remarkable community of EEB scientists and scholars continues to shine and impress. Our faculty received university, regional, and international awards including Beth Schussler’s UT Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award, Paul Armsworth’s Cox Professorship, Susan Riechert’s 2016 SEC Faculty Achievement Award, and the International Biogeographic Society Board’s Alfred Russel Wallace Award to Dan Simberloff. Postdoc Mason Heberling received a highly competitive two-year NSF postdoctoral fellowship.
EEB grad and undergraduate students are amazing! One quarter of our 56 grad students are self-funded, awarded over $300,000 in fellowship support last year alone. They published more than 80 papers in scientific journals, presented 50 talks and seminars at meetings, and share their enthusiasm for science through outreach to the community. Jess Welch was one of six to receive the Ecological Society of America’s Graduate Student Policy Award. EEB undergraduate alumna Kenna Rewcastle (’15) was awarded a Fulbright US Student Program Grant for 2016–17 to conduct research on climate change impacts on the reindeer herds’ food sources managed by the Sami indigenous people of Sweden. Learn more about the amazing achievements of our students, faculty, and staff in the Awards and Accolades section of this newsletter.
On a personal level, I have been delighted, charmed and inspired by my colleagues in EEB and across the university and their culture of inclusion. I have enjoyed exploring the Scruffy City, the beautiful East Tennessee and Smoky Mountains landscape, and experiencing the glorious biodiversity showcased by the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. I can hardly believe I have only been at UT for one year!