Alumni & Friends

Message from the chair

John VandermeerDear Friends,

I write to you today from a new chair – as chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology – for a period of one year. It is with enthusiasm and trepidation that I take on this role: enthusiasm for helping guide the department in the very positive directions already established by the good Dr. Goldberg, trepidation in that I must live up to the high standards she established for the chair.

In this issue of Natural Selections, you will be introduced to the two newest additions to our faculty, Gina Baucom and Tom Schmidt. Gina was hired as part of the University of Michigan’s sustainable food systems cluster hire. As a member of this group, I’m especially happy to have Gina here. We’re looking forward to further incorporating her expertise in evolutionary plant genomics and informatics to research and teaching in the department. Tom, our first joint EEB-Medical School appointment, is another superb addition to the department, bringing his expertise and leadership in microbial ecology, and providing a bridge to the Medical School and the growing group in microbial ecology at the Med School and across campus.

You’ll also read about one of our exceptional undergraduate alumni in this issue, Brian Malloure, who is engaged in conservation field work with birds in the Canadian Arctic and the Florida Everglades. It’s so gratifying to see the exciting careers that lie ahead for our students. We are faced with many daunting challenges in the world today, but our students give us renewed hope for a better future.

We have several upcoming retirements to announce. Professors Earl Werner and Phil Myers retire in December of this year. Bill Fink retires in May 2014. Earl leaves a legacy of major breakthroughs in community ecology, focused on his extensive work with the amphibians of the E. S. George Reserve, continuing with our long tradition of field ecology coupled with advancing theory. Phil continues with his important work on the effects of climate change on the distribution of mammals in Michigan, providing the world with yet further examples of the disturbing consequences of global warming. His long standing work in building and maintaining the Animal Diversity web page will remain an essential tool for teaching animal biodiversity for many years to come. Bill’s expert guidance as director of the Museum of Zoology was essential during some difficult years, and the current strong position of the museum and its collections reflect his persistent defense of the unit in the face of sometimes conflicting pressures from many quarters.

I look forward to hearing from you in the year ahead. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season and a productive, happy and sustainable new year in 2014!