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Beasley, Yabsley win prestigious awards during University of Georgia Honors Week

Drs. James Beasley and Michael Yabsley have both been recognized during the University of Georgia's Honors Week for their outstanding contributions to research.

Beasley is the 2018 Fred C. Davison Early Career Scholar Award winner, and Yabsley won the very prestigious Create Research Medal in Natural Sciences and Engineering.

Beasley, assistant professor in the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, incorporates modern field techniques to study the spatial ecology and population dynamics of vertebrate wildlife in human-altered ecosystems. He has received international recognition for his research expertise and peer-refereed publications in international-level journals. He has obtained more than $2.3 million in grants and contracts from numerous agencies and organizations as principal investigator or co-PI. His knowledge of wildlife biology has allowed him to devise innovative approaches to the discipline of radioecology—the study of radioactive contamination in the environment and its effects as an ecological stressor. His research at Chernobyl has been recognized among key scientists within the radioecology community. Since 2014, he has served as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s sole wildlife adviser to the Fukushima Prefecture government in Japan, in response to the 2011 tsunami and nuclear accident.

Yabsley, professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and College of Veterinary Medicine, discovered an unexpected pathway of infection for dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease (GWD), which has caused widespread suffering in West Africa. GWD was already known to spread through unfiltered drinking water contaminated by the parasitic worm Dracunculus medinensis, causing debilitating pain, fever, nausea and occasionally death. After a successful international GWD eradication campaign, human cases fell from 3.5 million in 1986 to only 25 cases in 2016. In 2013, however, GWD infections were found in a new host—dogs—with further potential for transmission to humans. He hypothesized that dogs acquired GWD infections by ingesting aquatic hosts, possibly fish or frogs, which carried the parasite in their tissues. This discovery of possible foodborne transmission, rather than waterborne transmission, allowed policymakers to implement targeted disease prevention strategies for human and canine populations.

 

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