Dr. Bram Tucker
Tucker, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, was chosen as the outstanding mentor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences category. He serves as the major advisor for four UGA doctoral students, often employing his own projects as a research stepping stone.
“Dr. Tucker makes student professional development a central component of his field research,” said Elaina Lill, a Ph.D. student.
Since 1996, Tucker has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Madagascar where he studies the Mikea people. He combines observational, ethnographic and experimental methods to understand how the Mikea people make economic decisions.
Three students under Tucker’s guidance have built upon his research in Madagascar.
For example, in summer 2007, Tucker brought Lill and Amber Huff, another UGA graduate student, to Madagascar for first-hand experience. He taught them along with eight Malagasy students from the Université de Toliara about anthropological approaches to theory and research methods.
According to Lill, Tucker inspired the Malagasy students to learn about theory and systematic data collection.
“Dr. Tucker succeeded in conveying these concepts and even inspiring many of the students that I worked with to theoretically enhance their research,” said Lill. “He presented these talented students with unprecedented opportunities, resources and attention that are essential for professional development, but difficult to obtain in the developing world.”
Tucker also has a proven track record in assisting his graduate students to obtain money from external sources. Several graduate students in his anthropology lab have secured funding from the National Science Foundation and Fulbright Scholar Program.
“Even though I already had support from a research assistantship though the Graduate School, Dr. Tucker encouraged me to apply for a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship,” said Laura Tilghman, an anthropology graduate student.
“My successful receipt of this fellowship, due in part to his guidance, has allowed me to travel to conferences and purchase academic supplies and research equipment.”
Dr. Nate Nibbelink
Nibbelink, a professor in the Warnell School of Forestry, was selected to receive the mentoring award in the Professional and Applied Sciences category.
His laboratory applies spatial analysis theory and technology to ecological problems and natural resource management. According to his students, Nibbelink addresses a broad range of research interests, eager to lend a hand to each individual student.
“Unlike some professors who work mainly in specialized areas, Dr. Nibbelink’s broad qualifications in wildlife, fisheries and spatial analysis result in his involvement with various students working in similar areas,” said Luke Worsham, a research scientist in Warnell.
“As a result, Dr. Nibbelink happily serves, by choice, on a greater-than-average number of graduate student committees.”
Nibbelink has such a strong connection with his students that many of them followed him to UGA after becoming professional partners in Wyoming. Now four years into his tenure at UGA, the first graduate students under Nibbelink’s guidance are nearing graduation.
“We are among his first masters and Ph.D. students and continue to be thoroughly impressed at Dr. Nibbelink’s capacity to counsel and coach students with widely varied backgrounds,” said Jena Hickey, a forestry graduate student.
Nibbelink accommodates his graduate students with an open-door policy and encourages a community environment. He holds regular “Natelab” meetings, where he helps graduate students overcome problems regarding research methodology, data analysis and publication strategies.
“He invests himself personally in making these projects work on anything from a shoe-string budget to a substantial multi-financed budget,” said Hickey.
Graduate students in Nibbelink’s lab say that his involvement and ability to attract outside funding frees them to undertake far-reaching investigations.
For example, Hickey studies how the living conditions of bonobos, a great ape found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have changed as agriculture and logging encroaches on their habitat. With Nibbelink’s assistance, Hickey was able to travel abroad to conduct fieldwork.