Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Award 2009
Sonia Hernandez-Divers, a recent doctoral graduate in ecology, conducted research on how anthropogenic changes to the landscape affect the dynamics of disease in wildlife populations and communities. Focusing on the shade-grown coffee plantations and adjacent forests in Costa Rica, Hernandez-Divers identified domestic fowl as likely sources of pathogens and then investigated the potential effects on what is probably the most vulnerable species—wild forest birds that forage in shade-grown coffee. Her research provided important evidence that shade-grown coffee does not expose wild birds to increased risk of disease. It also formulated a new paradigm in veterinary medicine: analyzing the prevalence of disease through a better understanding of immunity, pathogen virulence, and environmental influences. Hernandez-Divers is currently an assistant professor in UGA’s School of Forestry and Natural Resources and at the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.