Congratulations to the following individuals on their recent promotions in ecology and evolutionary biology, effective Sept. 1, 2015: Patricia Wittkopp from associate professor with tenure to professor with tenure; Timothy James from assistant professor without tenure to associate professor with tenure; Brad Cardinale from associate professor to professor without tenure (as a dry appointment in EEB); and Pavel Klimov from assistant research scientist to associate research scientist.
Professor Wittkopp’s research, teaching, and service records are exemplary. She is a preeminent evolutionary geneticist – a field of research based on the premise that all of the morphological differences we see among species in nature ultimately stem from evolutionary changes in shared ancestral developmental programs. Her research has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of gene regulation (control of gene expression) mechanisms and of their evolutionary importance in generating within- and among-species variation. Working with fruit fly and yeast model systems, Wittkopp has established a well-funded, vibrant research program that produces a steady stream of influential and highly cited publications in leading scientific journals, including Nature, Science, Nature Reviews Genetics, and Genome Research. She is a national and international leader in the field of evolutionary genetics, especially in the active area of regulatory evolution.
Wittkopp is an excellent instructor who takes her teaching mission extremely seriously and who engages iteratively and in-depth with her classes to ensure that she is reaching the students and that meaningful learning is occurring.
Finally, in terms of service, Wittkopp has an outstanding record at departmental, university and international scientific community levels. She has served with distinction on numerous departmental committees, including serving as EEB’s associate chair for graduate studies.
Professor James joined U-M in 2009 with a joint appointment in the EEB department, as assistant professor, and in the U-M Herbarium (then, an independent LSA unit), as assistant curator of mycology. The units merged in 2011. Mycologists study the biology of Fungi, a major and highly distinctive branch in the tree of life comprising one of the three kingdoms of multicellular organisms, the other two being animals (Animalia, the sister group of Fungi) and plants (Plantae). Most fungi have diffuse, microscopic body plans but play central roles in natural ecosystems as decomposers, symbionts and pathogens. Only some 200,000 species of fungi of the estimated two to five million extant species have been formally described and there are much larger gaps in our understanding of the evolutionary history and fundamental biodiversity of fungi than of animals and plants.
James has established a vibrant mycological program at U-M that is widely admired for its impact across a number of major research themes. He is held in enormous respect for his fundamental contributions to deep fungal evolution that are greatly increasing our understanding of the earliest branching events in this kingdom. James is recognized as having made important scholarly contributions, using genetic and genomic approaches, regarding the complex genetics of fungal mating systems and how they shape population genetic structure in nature. More recently, he has successfully built on earlier work on chytrid fungi to develop a fully-fledged research program on the chytrid species responsible for severe declines in global amphibian populations.
The value and visibility of James’ contributions are evident in his impressive research productivity and citation record, the journals in which he has published (including the highly regarded Science, Nature, PNAS and Current Biology), and by the multiple awards he has won from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and from multiple other granting bodies.
James’ teaching, mentoring and service efforts in EEB are as stellar as his research. James stands out in his commitment to the education of underrepresented minorities in the department and he has been a major player in the success of the department’s groundbreaking Frontiers Master’s Program. He has distinguished himself as a proactive curator of the UMH’s extraordinary fungi and lichens collections.
Professor Cardinale’s primary appointment is in the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Cardinale has developed a remarkably strong and well-funded research program at U-M in fundamental biodiversity research. His research contributions are extraordinarily influential. For instance, Cardinale was listed among the most cited one percent of ecology and environment researchers in the 2014 Thomson Reuters list of most influential scientists worldwide. He is a very significant asset to the ecological sciences at U-M.
Since his 2011 dry appointment in EEB, Cardinale has developed a course in Conservation Biology (NRE 517) that is popular with our EEB graduate students. He has been very actively engaged in state conservation issues, being a forceful advocate of successfully combatting regressive legislation such as the recent Senate Bill 78, which would have restricted any state agency in Michigan from managing public lands for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity. Cardinale has coadvised an EEB graduate student and it is anticipated that he will play an increasing role on the committees of graduate students in EEB.
Dr. Klimov became an assistant research scientist in 2006 with the U-M Museum of Zoology, then an independent LSA unit. Klimov has achieved preeminent status as a leading Acari (mites, a major radiation of arachnid arthropods) researcher. There are likely over a million species of mites, of which only some 50,000 have been formally described. They have an ancient evolutionary history, occur in all major global habitats, often in great numbers, and they collectively play important ecological roles as detritivores, parasites, commensals and disease vectors.
Klimov has taken a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to studying mite evolution and systematics, ranging from in-depth taxonomic monographic publications based on morphologies, to sophisticated molecular phylogenetic analyses addressing major evolutionary questions in the group, to broader questions of gene and genomic evolution. His research touches on aspects of mite biology that have applied importance, involving house dust mites, bee mites and forensic entomology, as well as more esoteric basic research questions including the evolution of long-term asexuality in some lineages. Klimov’s publications are substantial and represent a multi-faceted scholarly impact, both in high profile journals as well as in taxonomic monographs.
Klimov plays an important role in the research and training mission of the UMMZ, one of the two EEB museum units. He actively trains both graduate students and visiting scholars in phylogenetic techniques and, through his extensive fieldwork, adds directly to the mite collection. The UMMZ houses one of the most important mite research collections in North America, substantially assembled over the past three decades by Professor Barry O’Connor, Klimov’s former postdoctoral advisor.