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Tracy Langkilde named head of Penn State biology department

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Tracy Langkilde named head of Penn State biology department

Tracy Langkilde

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Tracy Langkilde, associate professor of biology, has been named head of the Department of Biology at Penn State. She assumed her new role on February 1.

Langkilde has served as an assistant professor of biology at Penn State since 2007 and was promoted to associate professor in 2012. She also served as the Tombros
Fellow for Undergraduate Research in the Eberly College of Science from 2014 to 2015.  Prior to joining Penn State, Langkilde was the Gaylord Donnelley Environmental Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University. She earned a bachelor’s degree at James Cook University in 1999 and a Ph.D. degree at the University of Sydney in 2005.

“It is a great honor to be selected to lead the Department of Biology at Penn State,” said Langkilde. “The department has an incredible research portfolio, and is undergoing exciting new developments in teaching. I care deeply about it and am invested in the long-term success of its students, staff and faculty.”

Langkilde said that her goals as department head focus particularly on offering outstanding educational opportunities; communicating research results to the public; and maintaining a pleasant, collaborative atmosphere.

“I hope to further increase the visibility of our excellent research and teaching; enhance graduate and postdoctoral career development opportunities; transform undergraduate education using a bottom-up approach that leverages expertise within department; and offer enhanced pedagogy training and mentoring opportunities, especially for new faculty members,” said Langkilde. “I also aim to enhance diversity by exploring new mechanisms to recruit diverse faculty members and students, make the workplace more family-friendly and maintain the wonderfully collegial atmosphere in the department by increasing opportunities for department members to get together.”

As a researcher, Langkilde has focused on understanding how nature is organized and how species coexist. She is particularly interested in how species interactions shift over time in response to changes in the environment and corresponding selection pressures. For example, she examines how the introduction of invasive species affects the ecology of native species. Specifically, she investigates how invasive fire ants impact the behavior, physical attributes and physiology of native lizards.

Langkilde is the recipient of the 2011 George Mercer Award from the Ecological Society of America and the Edward D. Bellis Award in Ecology from Penn State for exceptional education and training of ecology graduate students. She is the author or co-author of 78 publications in peer-reviewed journals and has given numerous invited talks throughout the world. In addition, Langkilde is an associate editor of the journal Evolutionary Ecology, and she has served on multiple committees, councils and teams.

Langkilde replaces Douglas Cavener, who had served as the biology head for fifteen years prior to being appointed dean of the Eberly College of Science in 2015. Richard Cyr, professor of biology, served as interim department head last year as the search for a new head was being conducted. 

“We concluded a national search for a department head, and I’m pleased that Dr. Tracy Langkilde was chosen as the most qualified and capable among a stellar group of candidates,” said Cavener. “Tracy has exceptional skills and talent to lead the biology department toward achieving a higher level of excellence and integration in teaching and research.”