Nina Wurzburger, assistant professor in the Odum School of Ecology, conducts research in ecosystems ranging from tropical rainforests to the arctic tundra and counts working with students in the field among the highlights of her career.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned a B.S. in environmental and resource science and an M.S. in soil science at the University of California, Davis. I then earned a Ph.D. in forest resources at UGA. I am an assistant professor in the Odum School of Ecology, where I run a research lab and teach courses on ecosystem ecology.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA first in 2001 to pursue a Ph.D. in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. I returned 10 years later to begin an appointment as assistant professor in the Odum School of Ecology. I feel fortunate to be here. I enjoy the culture at UGA and the community of Athens, which offers the perfect blend of academics, art and recreation.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I enjoy teaching students how they can view the world through an ecosystem lens. I am proud to teach an approach to ecology that Eugene Odum—the namesake of our school—helped establish as a scientific discipline.
What interests you about your field?
I am fascinated by the way that plants partner with microbes to gain the nutrients they need to grow. While these partnerships persist at very fine scales, their effects are profound in the context of ecosystems and the global carbon cycle.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I conduct research in a range of ecosystems, including tropical rainforests, local forests, savannas and the arctic tundra. Some of the highlights of my career involve working with students, technicians and collaborators in the field, making discoveries and getting our hands dirty. Another recent career highlight was receiving the Fred C. Davison Early Career Scholar Award.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
The nexus between teaching and research is clear to me. Teaching core concepts and principles of ecology reaffirms the questions that guide my research. And the research discoveries we make inspire me to teach students about the emerging issues we face in ecology.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I hope that students gain an appreciation for the ecosystem concept, and the value of an ecosystem perspective in ecological research and solving environmental problems.
Describe your ideal student.
Willing to engage, ask questions and tell me their point of view.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I enjoy walking through the Trial Gardens to break from work and to get inspiration for my garden.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I enjoy running, cycling and practicing yoga as a way to stay grounded. I also love gardening because it allows me to combine scientific knowledge with art and creativity.
Community/civic involvement includes….
I value the role of trees in our urban landscape. I am a member (and president-elect) of the Athens-Clarke County Community Tree Council.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I enjoy reading fiction, particularly the classic detective novels of Agatha Christie. I enjoy the suspense. Over the years, I read them again and again … and I’m always surprised by the ending!
Proudest moment at UGA?
I recall (with fondness) my own struggles and triumphs as a Ph.D. student conducting research here at UGA. These formative experiences helped direct my career path. Now that I mentor students in their own research, however, I feel the most pride for their achievements.