Meghan Duffy and María Natalia Umaña, faculty members in LSA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, have been chosen as 2023 fellows of the Ecological Society of America, the world’s largest community of professional ecologists.

The society’s fellowship program recognizes the many ways its members contribute to ecological research and discovery, communication, teaching, and management and policy.

The program recognizes both Fellows and Early Career Fellows. The 2023 honorees include seven Fellows and 10 Early Career Fellows, including:

- Duffy, the Susan S. Kilham Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, LSA, ESA Fellow.

- Umaña, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, LSA, Early Career Fellow.

Duffy is an aquatic and disease ecologist studying the causes and consequences of infectious disease outbreaks. Her research has focused on understanding how factors outside of a single host-parasite pairing — such as predators, resources and abiotic factors — influence patterns of disease in nature.

In addition to her work on host-parasite interactions, she has led efforts to better support the mental health and well-being of graduate students and others in academia.

“Being selected as a fellow is very exciting and a reflection of the great people with whom I’ve had the good fortune to work,” Duffy said. “My research has always been very collaborative, benefiting immensely from the wonderful people in my lab and the excellent collaborators I’ve had throughout my career.

”Umaña is a forest community ecologist interested in understanding underlying mechanisms that foster and maintain diversity.

Her research emphasizes the role of intraspecific trait variation for addressing questions about community diversity, composition and dynamics.

Her current projects focus on developing trait-based demographic frameworks that inform mechanisms underlying patterns of species diversity and dynamics, testing implicit assumptions about trait variation to obtain a general characterization of patterns across scales, and studying dynamic functional responses of trees to climatic fluctuations.

“I am grateful for this recognition and excited to continue contributing to the field,” Umaña said. “It is particularly meaningful to receive this award early in my career, as it provides a boost of motivation to continue pursuing my research goals. This award also serves as a reminder of the importance of community ecology research and the potential impact it can have on understanding and addressing issues related to biodiversity.”

ESA Early Career Fellows are members within eight years of completing their doctoral training, or other terminal degree, who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. They are elected for five years.

“Duffy’s internationally renowned research program is advancing our understanding of how aquatic parasites and their hosts interact with each other and other living and nonliving elements of their ecosystem to predict how disease spreads,” said Patricia Wittkopp, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“Impressively, she is doing this work while improving our undergraduate and graduate programs through her innovative teaching in Introductory Biology and leadership on graduate student mental health." 

Wittkopp said Umaña is a “rising star in ecology, studying forests to understand how variations in key traits control interactions among plants and their environments. This work helps us understand why we see the patterns of biodiversity that we see across the globe.

“In addition to her research excellence, Umaña has enriched the education of our undergraduate students by overhauling our introductory plant biology course and plays a critical role in departmental governance as a member of EEB’s executive committee.”

The ESA established its fellows program in 2012 to honor its members and support their competitiveness and advancement to leadership positions in the society, at their institutions and in broader society.