A Legacy of Leadership

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The late Eugene P. Odum is widely considered the father of modern ecology, and the University’s Odum School of Ecology is named in his honor.

This month the University is celebrating the legacy of Eugene P. Odum, the father of modern ecology and the namesake of our Odum School of Ecology. 

Dr. Odum, who served on the UGA faculty from 1940 until his retirement in 1984, helped establish ecology as its own scientific discipline and spearheaded the creation the UGA Institute of Ecology. His vision was reaffirmed 10 years ago, when UGA established the world’s first standalone school of ecology and named it in Dr. Odum’s honor. 

Today, the Odum School has an outsize impact on the University’s teaching, research and service missions. Odum School students have won eight out of the 12 Udall Scholarships awarded to UGA students since 2007, as well as Truman, Mitchell, Schwarzman, Goldwater, Hollings and Fulbright Scholarships. Odum School alumni include Dr. Monica Turner, a member of the National Academy of Sciences who is the Eugene P. Odum Professor of Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Other notable alumni include Dr. Beth Shaprio from the University of California, Santa Cruz, who in 2009 received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award. Turner and Shapiro will both be keynote speakers at the Odum School anniversary symposium, which will be held from January 12-14 and will celebrate the past while exploring future directions for the field. 

Dr. Odum was well ahead of his time in espousing a holistic approach to understanding the natural world, and our faculty continue his legacy of impactful research. The Odum School has one of University’s best records of publication in top-tier journals such as Science and Nature, and it is home to the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, which leverages the university’s strengths in disease and computational ecology to better understand how ecological processes and human impacts influence the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. 

The impact of the Odum School also can be seen through the outreach that’s conducted through its River Basin Center, the EcoReach program—which connects our students and faculty with children from area schools—and the annual EcoFocus Film Festival.

Dr. Odum passed away in 2002, but his ideas live on in the Odum School’s instruction, research and service. His landmark textbook, “The Fundamentals of Ecology,” is now in its fifth edition and has been translated into 12 languages, and his legacy exemplifies how big, bold ideas from faculty at the University of Georgia can have a global impact.

More information:
Odum School of Ecology: http://ecology.uga.edu/
Eugene Odum profile: http://www.uga.edu/about_uga/profile/the-father-of-modern-ecology/