People

John Drake

John Drake

Distinguished Research Professor

jdrake@uga.edu | personal web page | CV | Google Scholar ORCID ID

Research Interests
John M. Drake is Professor of Ecology at the University of Georgia. His research seeks to understand the dynamics of biological populations and epidemics, focusing on how to bring experimental and observational data together with mathematical theory. Biological phenomena of interest include extinction, fluctuations in variable environments, the spatial distribution of populations (niche theory), Allee effects, demographic stochasticity, spatial spread, and near-critical dynamics. Practical applications of this work include decision support for managing invasive species, mapping the spread of infectious diseases, and forecasting disease emergence. Current projects concern the dynamics of Ebola virus in West Africa, spread of White-nose Syndrome in bats, and the development of a new theory for early warning systems of emerging infectious diseases. Dr. Drake has an interest in history and philosophy of modern (twentieth century) biology. Dr. Drake received his PhD from the University of Notre Dame in 2004 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California from 2004-2006. He has been at the University of Georgia since 2006. He was Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University in 2012.

Teaching

Fall 2018 Classes:

Past Classes:

  • ECOL 8310 Population and Evolutionary Ecology (Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013)
  • ECOL 4000/6000 Population and Community Ecology (Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017)
  • ECOL 8520 Fundamentals of Disease Biology II (Spring 2017)
  • ECOL 8910 Multi-scale Modeling (Spring 2017)
  • ECOL 8910 Ecological Niche Theory and Species Distribution Modeling (Spring 2016)
  • ECOL 8910 Introduction to Computational Statistics (Spring 2015)
  • ECOL 8910 Quantifying Biodiversity (Spring 2014)
  • ECOL 8910 Nonlinear Time Series Analysis (Spring 2011)
  • ECOL 8910 Time Series Analysis (Fall 2010)
  • ECOL 8910 Meta-analysis (Spring 2010)
  • ECOL 8990 Data Visualization (Fall 2008)
  • ECOL 8990 Introduction to Applied Statistics (Fall 2007)
  • ECOL 4950 Senior Seminar (Fall 2006, Spring 2013)
  • FYOS 1001 First Year Odyssey Seminar (Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Spring 2017)

Affiliations

  • Odum School of Ecology (2006-present)
  • Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute (2008-present)
  • Faculty of Infectious Disease (2008-present)

J.P. Schmidt

J.P. Schmidt

Associate Research Scientist

jps@uga.edu | website

Research Interests
My work is applied and unified topically in having a spatial/landscape perspective, a vegetation focus, or relying on computational approaches. My interests range from vegetation (plant population and community ecology), to soils and ecosystem processes and the nexus of ecology and economics. I come to ecology as a botanist/naturalist and have extensive field experience conducting vegetation sampling and rare plant surveys. As a doctoral research project, I developed a spatially explicit individual-based model of the population biology of an endemic shrub adapted to fire-prone sandhill habitats to guide controlled burning by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In recent work, I developed models to identify traits associated with invasive and rare plant species using machine learning approaches.

Current projects include ecosystem service valuation on the Georgia coast, and developing soil carbon monitoring methods.

Remote sensing and GIS are integral to much of my research including ecosystem service valuation, and past projects funded by National Park Service, and Georgia GAP (mapping landuse/landcover and major vegetation communities for the entire state in order to model vertebrate habitat).


Eric Marty

Research Professional

emarty@uga.edu | website: http://www.ericmarty.com/

Digital Arts Fellow, Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts (https://willson.uga.edu/)

Research Interests

My current work is focused on data visualization, data sonification, and multi-modal data representation. I am concerned with creating data representations optimized for exploration, analysis or communication. I rely on principles of visual and auditory perception to increase efficiency of communication and reduce bias. I am particularly interested in problems involving high-dimensional and time-based data, where standard visualization tools often fall short.

As a composer with a background in computer music, interactive art and design, I have long worked at the intersection of art and science. My creative work centers on emulating natural systems and integrating art with environment. The works are typically site-specific installations or performances embedded in the environment, and involve real-time stochastic audio synthesis algorithms, sensing and interactivity, and multi-channel sound spatialization. More about my creative work can be found here.

As Digital Arts Fellow at UGA’s Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts, I help build interdisciplinary collaborations among the arts and sciences.


Eamon O'Dea

Eamon O’Dea

Postdoctoral Associate

odea35@gmail.com | website

Research Interests
The main theme of my research has been the development of methods to identify and estimate parameters for models of disease contact and transmission. My work has shown that, by pooling information from many outbreaks, transmission rates can be much more accurately estimated and associated with predictive variables. I have also developed a method to estimate the rates at which HIV-risk relationships form and break from a complex survey data set. My work has also demonstrated how contact heteorgeneity may influence estimates of pathogen incidence based on molecular data, and a related project that develops methods for regression modeling of pathogen migration rates based on location-tagged sequences is in progress. In some work on identification of models for the spread of an emerging porcine disease I learned about critical slowing down, and I’m looking forward to exploring the practical implications of such phenomena for surveillance.


Michelle Evans

Michelle Evans

PhD Student

website | CV
Co-advised with Dr. Courtney Murdock (lab webpage)

Research Interests
I am interested in the effects of land-use change on vector-borne disease dynamics and ecology. Specifically, my research is focused on how mosquito ecology shifts across an urban landscape to influence human risk of mosquito-borne disease (e.g dengue and Zika). As a student in the Integrative Conservation and Ecology program, I approach this problem from an interdisciplinary perspective, incorporating the social, ecological, and political complexities characteristic of urban systems. My current research focuses on the ‘carry-over effects’ of mosquito larval habitat on adult Aedes albopictus competence to transmit dengue.


Rutu Gandhi

PhD Student

rrg84583@uga.edu | CV | Google Scholar

Research Interests
I am primarily interested in applying deep learning on high dimensional supervised as well as unsupervised time-series data. My research interest also lies in introducing uncertainty in the above techniques and hence falls into the intersection of Bayesian statistics and deep learning. I believe that if humans can’t be a hundred percent certain about predicting unseen events and factors, machines should have the ability to model uncertainty into their predictions as well. Apart from this, as an AI major, I am broadly interested in multi-agent learning where multiple agents share their knowledge and experience with one another and multi-task learning where one model can be trained on and used for multiple tasks. Currently, I am primarily working on CDC’s Flu Forecasting challenge. The targets for this challenge are the onset week, peak week and peak intensity of influenza-like illnesses.


Reni Kaul

Reni Kaul

PhD Student

reni.kaul@drakeresearchlab.com | CV

Research Interests
I am generally interested in microbial populations and their impact on human health. My research before starting in the Drake lab was focused on quantifying and predicting the prevalence of Microcystis aeruginosa populations and an associated hepatotoxin, microcystin, in fresh water systems. This work has continued with my collaborators at MSU. We are currently exploring ecological mechanisms that control microcystin expression.

While in the Drake lab, I have worked on developing microbial systems to demonstrate and explore population extinctions due to various mechanisms including deteriorating environments, small population sizes, and experimental noise. I look forward to future work that combines ecological principles, microbiology and human health.


Paige Miller

Paige Miller

PhD Student

paige.miller@drakeresearchlab.com | CV

Research Interests
I am interested in using and developing methods for forecasting infectious diseases based on early warning signals and critical slowing down. I am fascinated by research on the interface of statistics and ecology. Currently, I am working on describing the reliability of various statistics in the face of data underreporting and transmission seasonality, problems that are important to consider in many ecological systems. For my PhD work, I also hope to contribute to the understanding of how much lead time, before a tipping point, may be granted by obtaining information from early warning signals. While in the Drake lab, I look forward to synthesizing principles from ecology, epidemiology, and statistics.


Robbie Richards

Robbie Richards

PhD Student

Co-advised with Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa (lab website)

Research Interests
I am interested in the community ecology of infectious disease, particularly the interactions between multiple natural enemies of a single species. Currently I study the effect of predator exclusion on the gastrointestinal parasites of small mammals. I’m examining the ways that within population heterogeneities in parasite load (such as age dependent infection intensity) interact with predation pressure to influence population level parasite dynamics. I also pursue side projects studying spatial variation in infection risk using machine learning algorithms.


Nicole Solano

Nicole Solano

PhD Student

nikki.solano@drakersearchlab.com | CV
Co-advised with Dr. Courtney Murdock (lab webpage)

Research Interests
I am interested in the effect of microclimate on mosquito community dynamics and fitness with regards to disease transmission across land use change, and how mathematical models could use this data for broad-scale predictions about human disease transmission.


Joy Vaz

PhD Student

joy.vaz@uga.edu

Research Interests I’m curious about the emergence of zoonotic diseases, especially understanding how human-wildlife-livestock interactions shape disease dynamics. My current research focuses on the ecology of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in camels, humans, and wildlife in Ethiopia. I integrate data from social, environmental, and epidemiological studies into mathematical models to find out which mechanistic scenarios are consistent with observed patterns of MERS infection in camels and humans. My passion for interdisciplinary research lead me to pursue training in the IDEAS PhD program at UGA. I aspire to expand upon traditional studies of zoonotic disease emergence by innovating more inclusive approaches to data collection and modeling. In the future, I hope to do research that combines science and social justice to understand the complex interactions between poverty, infectious diseases, and environmental health.


Anna Willoughby

PhD Student

Anna.Willoughby@uga.edu
co-advised by Dr. Sonia Altizer (www.altizerlab.org)

Research Interests
I study how wildlife behavior, disease, and communities change across various anthropogenic gradients. I approach these questions through complementary modeling and field methods. In the past, I’ve looked at dynamics of macroparasites in South African baboons and virus diversity among cave-roosting bats. Ultimately, I hope my research will be translated into conservation and wildlife management policy.


Andrea Silletti

Andrea Silletti

Lab Manager

andrea.silletti@gmail.com | CV

Research Interests
Most of my training is as a plant ecologist, where my experience ranges from leaf-level physiology to ecosystem restoration. Transferring these skills to a world of zooplankton and theoretical ecology has been an exciting challenge and a great opportunity to expand my ecological experiences.


Ana Rivera-Cruz

Research Technician

arive@uga.edu

Research Interests  I am interested in establishing the relationship between physic-chemical factors and phytoplankton populations in aquatic environments in order to determine the trophic conditions of freshwater bodies. Also the cultivation  and harvest of algae for biodiesel.


Alumni

Post-docs (current position)

Graduate Students

  • Marcus Zokan (PhD, 2015)
  • Tad Dallas (PhD, 2016)
  • Sarah Bowden (PhD, 2016)

REU Students

  • Dominic Gray, Norfolk State University (2014)
  • Trianna Humphrey, Tugaloo College (2014)
  • Paige Miller, Gustavus Adolphus (2014)
  • Abby Smith, Carnegie Mellon University (2014)
  • Evans Lodge, Calvin College (2015)
  • Annakate Schatz, Mount Holyoke College (2015)
  • Nikki Solano, Agnes Scott College (2015)
  • Tim Wildauer, Bethany Lutheran College (2015)
  • Richard Williams, Morehouse College (2015)
  • Chevana Dorris, Jackson State University (2016)
  • Yaw Kumi-Ansu, Emory University (2016)
  • Lexi Lerner, Brown University (2016)
  • Sarah Rainey, Radford University (2016)
  • Magdalene Walters, University of Notre Dame (2017)
  • Keri-Niyia Cooper, Savannah State University (2017)
  • Kennedy Houck, Ursinus College (2018)
  • JJ Taube, Bowdoin College (2019)

Research associates

  • Prahlad Jat
  • Gordon Akudibillah
  • Zach McElrath
  • Arash Fard
  • Brian Christian
  • Tomlin Pulliam
  • Annakate Schatz
  • Spencer Hall

Visiting researchers

  • Kevin Drury
  • Eleanor Pardini
  • Elodie Vercken
  • Chris Michael
  • Dustin Tench
  • Jonathan Lillie
  • Keisha Pressley
  • Amanda Vincent

Undergraduates

  • Emmanuel Ayo
  • Danny Bruce
  • Amara Channell
  • Sarah Cressman
  • Brian Christian
  • Alicia Flowers
  • Mallory Harris
  • Ashley Janda
  • Kevin Knoblich
  • Aditya Krishnaswamy
  • Katie McCurdy
  • Michael McGuirk
  • Elizabeth Miller
  • Ronke Olowojesiku
  • Tierney O’Sullivan
  • Jack Owen
  • Deeran Patel
  • Tabita Popvici
  • Giovanni Righi
  • Jeff Shaprio
  • Lindsay Shay
  • David Stoker
  • Theresa Stratmann
  • Caroline Taylor
  • Jo Walker
  • Abby Wong
  • Katie Zarada