Following a nationwide search, the University of Georgia has named Mark D. Hunter as the next dean of the Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology. Hunter is currently the Earl E. Werner Distinguished University Professor and Henry A. Gleason Collegiate Professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan.
The deanship marks a return to UGA for Hunter. In 1995, he joined the university as an assistant professor in the Institute of Ecology, which later grew into the Odum School, the first standalone school of ecology in the world. A member of the faculty for 11 years, Hunter was the founding director of the UGA Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes, established in 2002 to enhance student research on the role of biodiversity in sustaining the ecosystem services that support life.
“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Hunter, an acclaimed researcher and talented teacher, back to the University of Georgia as the next dean of the Odum School of Ecology,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am confident he will provide outstanding leadership for the Odum School in the years ahead.”
As dean, Hunter will serve as the chief administrative and academic officer of the Odum School and will be responsible for its instructional, research and outreach programs. He will assume the role on July 1.
“It’s a real thrill to be returning to the Odum School of Ecology and to be a part of its vibrant and inclusive community of students, staff and faculty,” Hunter said. “The school has a long history of making fundamental contributions to ecological scholarship, education and outreach while continuing to adapt to meet the challenges of our times. It’s a privilege to be a part of the school’s next chapter of growth and development.”
Hunter has served at the University of Michigan since 2006, when he joined the faculty with dual appointments as a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology and a professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability. He served as the founding director of the university’s award-winning Frontiers Master’s Program, designed to promote participation by underrepresented groups in the graduate study of ecology and evolutionary biology, and he served as interim chair of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.
Hunter’s research focuses on plant-animal interactions, ecosystem ecology, biodiversity and population dynamics. In particular, he studies the links between population processes and ecosystem processes in terrestrial environments and explores the mitigation of global environmental change. His research has been widely covered in media outlets such as National Geographic, The Smithsonian, Natural History Magazine, Science Magazine, The Times, BBC, CNN, CBC, The LA Times and Scientific American.
Throughout his career, Hunter has published more than 170 research articles, written or edited six books and supervised more than 25 graduate students in their research. He secured 18 consecutive grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), resulting in 30 years of continuous federal funding for his research.
His awards include the CAREER Award and the OPUS Award from NSF, as well as numerous awards from the University of Michigan. He also is a lifetime Fellow of the Ecological Society of America.
Hunter earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology and his doctorate in ecology from the University of Oxford. Before joining the faculty at UGA, he was a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Research Fellow at Pennsylvania State University and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) International Research Fellow at Laval University in Canada.
“Throughout his service at UGA and the University of Michigan, Dr. Hunter has established himself as a distinguished scientist, adept leader and committed teacher,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I look forward to working closely with him in advancing excellence in the Odum School and across the university.”
A nine-member search committee chaired by Denise Spangler, dean of the Mary Frances Early College of Education and Bebe Aderhold Professor in Elementary Education, helped identify finalists for the position. Hunter will succeed Sonia Altizer, who has served as the Odum School’s interim dean since July 2021, when founding dean John L. Gittleman returned to the faculty.
“I would like to thank Sonia for her outstanding leadership and service to the Odum School and to the university,” said Hu. “It has been a pleasure working with her during the last two years.”
The Odum School is named after Eugene P. Odum, who joined UGA in the 1940s as a faculty member in zoology and is widely referred to as “the father of modern ecology.” The school takes a holistic approach to ecological studies, with areas of particular strength in aquatic ecology, conservation ecology, disease ecology, ecosystem ecology and sustainability science. Its facilities include the Horseshoe Bend Experimental Research Site and the Eugene P. Odum Broad River Property.