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A Collaborative Spirit

Message from EEB Head and Associate Heads

In 2020, EEB underwent a ten-year Academic Program Review to evaluate the entire program including our culture, and all aspects of the research and teaching missions of the department. The review committee (with folks from inside and outside of the university) noted that one of the “strongest cultural aspects of the department are its collegiality and collaborative spirit that infuses all they do.” 

Kalisz in the fieldDuring this past unusual year we have drawn on this collaborative spirit to help support one another and our students in many ways. With over a year of largely online learning, faculty and staff have helped each other navigate online teaching by sharing digital expertise, sharing slides and teaching materials, and supporting each other by checking in to see how everyone is doing. We have worked hard to support our students through creative methodologies for courses that may have normally been taught in person in the field or lab, by keeping in contact through virtual meetings and social events and increased communication and sharing of health, mental health and career resources. The excellence of our staff members have kept the main office productive and helpful, have maintained our research and teaching resources and collections and have found new and creative ways to support the department. Graduate students pivoted to teach online while also still figuring out ways to do research safely during a pandemic. Moreover, a motivated diversity committee has worked hard to educate and talk about critical social issues through a virtual diversity reading group to change and improve our understanding as well as create action plans to improve diversity and create a culture of true inclusion and safety within our community. 

While distancing, learning, and working in sometimes very challenging conditions in our homes, EEB has continued to be the collegial and productive department that was noted in our program review. We have graduated more than 45 undergraduate and graduate students over the last year, offered professional development and training for students and have taught all of our normally scheduled courses – even if the format was greatly modified – to prevent bottlenecks that might limit student success. 

Our research mission has continued and expanded with faculty and students working on reviews, new virtual collaborations, backyard experiments, and many other creative ways to create and apply knowledge in ecology and evolutionary biology. This year EEB students and faculty have 68 active grants from multiple agencies totaling more than $6 million (Professors Budke and Sheldon both won prestigious NSF CAREER awards), fellowships (Maryrose Weatherton won a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship), and national and local awards (Amanda Hyman won the Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence, Professor Derryberry won Professional Promise in Research & Creative Achievement awards). The list is too long to include here, but we include here a list of all the award winners in the 2020-21 academic year. Our faculty and students have continued to publish important and high-profile papers. 

The EEB seminar series hosted 24 national and international virtual speakers to expand the knowledge and the professional networks of students and faculty. We celebrate all of these successes as well as acknowledge all of the struggles that have also occurred. 

While this year has been difficult, stressful, as well as transformative in so many ways, the people that make EEB what it is have been resilient. We look forward to a time, hopefully soon, when we can celebrate this resilience in person. 

Susan, Brian and Jen