UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Katriona Shea, Alumni Professor in the Biological Sciences at Penn State, has been elected as a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Shea is being recognized for "developing important insights into pressing environmental problems, including reconciling conflicting empirical results about invader richness and disturbance-diversity relationships."
Fellows of the ESA are members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by the ESA and are elected for life. The ESA, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth.
Shea is an ecologist whose research in applied theoretical ecology involves the application of mathematical and computational methods to guide decision-making in population management, conservation efforts, control of invasive pests, and control of infectious diseases. Her research aims to provide the in-depth ecological understanding that is essential to limiting outbreaks of infectious diseases and managing populations of species of special concern. Her methods include quantitative theoretical studies of real systems, purely theoretical studies that inform practical approaches, and empirical studies.
Shea, and Penn State Associate Professor of Biology Matthew Ferrari, recently applied a decision-making approach not previously used in epidemiology, called adaptive management, to integrate scientific learning with the process of developing health policy to optimize response to outbreaks of infectious disease. In models of vaccination strategies used to combat measles outbreaks and models of the outbreak dynamics of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock, Shea and Ferrari showed that adaptive management would allow a more nimble response by policymakers that would limit the health impact and cost of the outbreaks.
Shea's previous awards and honors include the Edward D. Bellis Award for outstanding contribution and dedication to educating and training graduate students in the Penn State Ecology Program in 2004 and the Eberly College of Science Dean’s Climate and Diversity Award in recognition of extraordinary commitment to enhancing an environment of mutual respect and diversity in 2011. She was named Alumni Professor in Biological Sciences in 2015.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2001, Shea was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she worked on conservation strategies for threatened salmon. Her background also includes work on pest management in Australia, plus additional postdoctoral work studying host-parasite population dynamics and stability at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has worked as an instructor for a variety of ecological classes. Her field experience includes research projects in locales ranging from rain forests in Guyana to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
She earned her doctoral degree in theoretical population ecology at London University in 1994 and her bachelor’s degree in physics at Oxford University in 1990.