Campus News

University plans to create nation’s first School of Ecology

The university plans to create a new school of ecology that would be named for the late Eugene P. Odum, the founder of ecosystem ecology who was affiliated with UGA for 60 years.

The school would be created by withdrawing the existing Institute of Ecology from the College of Environment and Design and turning it into an independent, stand-alone school with its own dean, faculty and administrative staff. It would be UGA’s 16th academic school or college and would be the first stand-alone ecology school in America.

A  proposal to establish the Eugene P. Odum School of  Ecology was approved by the University Council Feb. 8. President Michael F. Adams will send the proposal to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents for final approval.

The school would be recognized immediately as one of the nation’s top research programs in ecological sciences based on the strength of the existing Institute of Ecology faculty and the institute’s international stature, according to the proposal, which passed the council by a vote of 63-41.

Odum, the school’s namesake, joined the UGA faculty in 1940 and gained widespread fame for his research based on a holistic approach to ecosystem studies. Often called the “father of modern ecology,” he wrote a dozen books including Fundamentals of Ecology, considered a landmark in the field, and more than 200 scientific publications.

Scott Weinberg, interim dean of the College of Environment and Design, said the cost of starting the school would be “revenue neutral”—only about $77,000—because the school would use existing facilities for teaching, research and service and would incorporate the institute’s existing faculty, which includes 17 tenured or tenure-track faculty and six non-tenure track faculty,  along with existing staff support.

The Odum School would offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in ecology and would encourage collaborative, interdisciplinary research among faculty throughout the university.Public service work would be conducted primarily through the River Basin Center.

In other action, the council voted to endorse a statement prepared by the UGA chapter of the American Association of University Professors expressing concern about a proposed requirement for criminal background checks on new faculty and staff members at colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia. The proposed requirement was developed by  Chancellor Erroll Davis Jr.

President Adams said concerns had been raised in an earlier meeting he had with the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee. He said he had already been in contact with both Davis and the head of the state AAUP, which also raised concerns about the policy, and would convey the faculty concerns to both parties.