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UW’s Ernest, Currano Receive Flittie Sabbatical Awards

April 13, 2020

Holly Ernest, a University of Wyoming Excellence Chair in Disease Ecology and professor of veterinary sciences; and Ellen Currano, an associate professor of geology and geophysics, are the recipients of UW’s 2020 Flittie Sabbatical Augmentation Award.

The award will support travel and other expenses during their sabbaticals in the 2020-21 academic year.

The Flittie award goes to qualified faculty members whose two-semester sabbatical leave has the potential to enrich instruction at UW. Named for the late sociology Professor Ed Flittie, who bequeathed funds to augment sabbatical salaries, the award is made by the Faculty Recognition and Development Committee of the UW Faculty Senate.

During Ernest’s sabbatical, she plans to combine advanced study and collaborative research in the interdisciplinary fields of genomics, bioinformatics and disease ecology to further science, education and wildlife health. One of the outcomes of her sabbatical will be a new introductory online UW course to excite students in agriculture, health sciences and environmental sciences to the highly marketable field of bioinformatics. Hosted by the University of British Columbia, Canada, and the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, her sabbatical work in the expertise-rich Vancouver community will benefit students, UW, Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West.

Currano’s sabbatical will be spent as a visiting researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, home to the world’s largest collection of Wyoming plant fossils and the top paleontological research institution in the U.S. Her research will investigate how past climate changes affected plant and insect biodiversity, and will anticipate that at least three highly cited papers on Wyoming’s ancient vegetation will result from this research. She is excited to learn new methods to analyze paleontological data, to bring this expertise back to UW and to contribute to UW’s goal of being a biodiversity “center of excellence.”

“The Flittie is an outstanding example of what a private gift can do for UW and its mission,” says Tom Seitz, chair of the Faculty Recognition and Development Committee. “These awards help our best faculty stay at the cutting edge of research in their disciplines, and bring new knowledge and techniques home to benefit our students. For our committee, it proved a serious challenge to select two winners from this year’s field of very strong applicants.”

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