ACS Collaborative Researcher
Dr. Erin Lipp
Associate Professor, UGA Department of Environmental Health Science
“I have always conducted collaborative research. To address real-world problems, it is nearly impossible to do so without a broad expertise.” Dr. Erin Lipp brings her expertise in Marine Biology to UGA’s College of Public Health in the Department of Environmental Health Science. She collaborates with researchers across disciplines in order to tackle pressing environmental and public health.
Post-Doctoral Fellowship Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland, 2000-2002
Ph.D. Marine Science with emphasis in Biological Oceanography, University of South Florida, 1999
B.A. Biology with emphasis in Marine Biology, New College of Florida, 1994
Could you tell us a little bit about your current position at UGA and how you ended up here?
“I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Science at UGA. I am also the current graduate coordinator for the department, which is one of the five core areas of Public Health. Given my academic training in marine sciences, this may seem to be an unusual place for me to end up! However, as an environmental microbiologist, my work often interfaces with these different disciplines. In particular, my research focuses on the ecology of human (and other) pathogens in marine and other natural waters. My path to UGA and environmental health began in my Ph.D. program, where my dissertation research focused on the fate and transport of sewage-derived pathogenic bacteria and viruses into nearshore coastal waters. I built on this research through my post-doctoral work, in which I focused on the ecology of naturally occurring human pathogens in marine waters. Although I was working on marine microbiology issues, my focus area clearly fell within the boundaries of public health and environmental health. UGA ended up being a great fit, as, even now, my research addresses both fundamental issues of water quality and sanitation as well as the ecology of marine diseases.”
What are some of the highlights of your career at UGA?
“I began my career as an independent scientist at UGA, so all of my research and mentoring have happened here.”
How does your research inspire or influence your teaching?
“I try to bring my research into my classes whenever I can. I think it helps from an instructional standpoint to be able to show how what students are studying fits into research that is current. Recently, I expanded on this theme and have developed a graduate course that is built around water quality research.”
What are your goals for students (both undergraduate and graduate) who work in your lab?
“My goals are to develop students that can think critically about science, can develop good, testable hypotheses and can work independently. I usually have a large, active lab group and learning to function as a team is a critical part of navigating through their research. My hope is that students develop positive and lasting relationships with both me and their labmates. Finally, my goal is prepare students for whatever the next step in their professional lives may be.”
How did you come to be involved in collaborative research with faculty in other UGA departments and at Rollins College?
“I began working with other faculty at UGA almost as soon as I arrived here. Dr. Jim Porter (Ecology) and his Ph.D. student (Kathryn Patterson Sutherland) were working on a disease of the elkhorn coral in the Florida Keys. Around the time that I started at UGA, they had just discovered that an etiological agent of this disease was a bacterium that is commonly found in feces. My own work at the time was evaluating the impacts of septic systems on water quality in the Florida Keys and the potential ability for human enteric bacteria and viruses to accumulate in coral mucus. Our research was right in line with each other and we began working together immediately. Upon graduating Katie worked with me as a post-doctoral fellow and we have continued to collaborate as she has gone on to become a faculty member at Rollins College.”
What do you see as the primary benefits of collaborative research?
“I have always conducted collaborative research. To address real-world problems, it is nearly impossible to do so without a broad expertise. I also enjoy working with people from other fields; it can provide a fresh perspective on your own work that you might not get otherwise.”
Any other current research interests?
“I am also working on other projects including, 1) determining the role of environmental transmission in Salmonella cases, including the effects of climate change on disease and pathogen dynamics; 2) identifying environmental drivers in Vibrio population dynamics and potential risk to humans and corals; and 3) investigating the impact of septic systems on coastal water quality.”
Do you have any words of wisdom for others who may be interested in collaborative research?
“Despite some inevitable learning curves, collaborative research is incredibly rewarding.”
The Rollins/UGA collaborative team includes five principal investigators in the fields of coral disease ecology and microbiology (Kathryn Sutherland, Department of Biology, Rollins College), coral reef ecology (Jim Porter, Odum School of Ecology, UGA), environmental microbiology (Erin Lipp, Department of Environmental Health Science, UGA), genetics (John Wares, Department of Genetics, UGA), and ecological modeling (Andrew Park, Odum School of Ecology, UGA).
Our team also includes undergraduate students from Rollins College (Hunter Noren, Emily Nys, and Molly Broome), and undergraduates (Kelsey Montgomery), graduate students (Jessica Joyner, Meredith Meyers, Keri Goodman, Beck Frydenborg, Ashton Griffin, Brett Berry) and post-doctoral researchers (Dustin Kemp, Carrie Futch, Ron Eytan) from UGA.