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Dr. Madan Oli

Professor

UF Department of Wildlife Ecology

2014-2015 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner

Upon graduation, doctoral students represent the University of Florida in the real world, here at home as well as internationally. The overall goal of my doctoral advising and mentoring is to nurture personal and professional development of my doctoral students and mentees, and to help them become world-leaders in ecological and conservation sciences. I strive to achieve these goals by identifying strengths and weaknesses in each student, and designing a training program that reinforces his/her strengths, and remedies the weaknesses through an individualized training program – coursework, research, directed readings or specialized hands-on training. I encourage my doctoral students to be independent, but provide adequate supervision and assistance as needed to help them stay focused and goal-oriented.

I work closely with my doctoral students on the formulation of research questions/hypotheses and study design, data collection, analysis and modeling; publication of research findings in peer-reviewed journals, and effective oral and poster presentations in meetings of professional societies. As they make progress towards their degree programs, I work with them on the development of a C.V., academic and non-academic job application process, interview skills and effective job search strategies. I have continued to mentor and work with my doctoral students and mentees even after they have accepted various positions (e.g., university professors or conservation leaders) in terms of collaborative research, grantsmanship or advising/mentoring of their own students and employees. In summary, my advising begins when doctoral students enter my lab but it never ends!

I highly value peer-reviewed publication, effective communication, and critical thinking skills. I attempt to instill these skills in my advisees through regular individual and lab meetings, mini-workshops and discussions using techniques such as Socratic Dialogues. These methods have proved very effective in identifying student’s needs, remedying potential weaknesses, and developing or refining individualized training programs for each student. Doctoral students graduating from my lab have published peer-reviewed papers in high-profile journals, presented their research results in meetings of national or international professional societies, and have the reputation of being thorough and independent thinkers.

The effectiveness of my doctoral advising and mentoring is reflected in two key metrics: publications in high-profile journals and job placement. A quick Web of Science search (31 October 2014) reveals that Dr. Arpat Ozgul has authored or co-authored 15 peer reviewed publications with me in the very best journals, includingNature, American Naturalist, Ecology and Ecological Applications. The high quality of Dr. Ozgul’s work under my advisement is reflected by the fact that his publications were prominently featured as cover articles in journals such as Nature and Ecological Applications. Not surprisingly, Dr. Ozgul landed prestigious post-doctoral positions at the Imperial College, London and Cambridge University. His reputation is rising as a prominent population ecologist in Europe. He now leads the Population Ecology Research Group at the University of Zurich, Switzerland where he runs a large (~15 members) lab and supervises a research program funded by multimillion dollar grants. Likewise, Dr. Jeff Hostetler has published 21 peer-reviewed articles with me in journals such as Science, Ecology and Journal of Animal Ecology (including one cover article) – the very best journals in ecological and conservation sciences. He currently holds a post-doctoral position at the prestigious Conservation Biology Institute of the Smithsonian Institution, where he is engaged in cutting-edge research in population ecology and conservation biology. Likewise, Dr. Varun Goswami leads the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asian elephant research and conservation program in India, and Drs. Oscar Murillo-Garcia and Carolina Perez-Heydrich serve as Assistant Professors at the University del Valle, Cali (Colombia) and Meredith College, North Carolina, respectively.

While continued success of my doctoral advisees and mentees is the best reward I can hope for, UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has recognized my genuine dedication and commitment to graduate advising by awarding me the Graduate Advisor/Teacher of the Year award in 2014.