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Amphibian Disease Expert Earns Schwartz Award at USD

Jake Kerby standing in the wetlands holding a net and wearing bib overalls. Jake Kerby, Ph.D., who is widely known for his expertise in amphibian disease, received the Truman and Beverly Schwartz Distinguished Faculty Award.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Jacob Kerby, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, is the sixth recipient of the Truman and Beverly Schwartz Distinguished Faculty Award at the University of South Dakota.

The Schwartz Award, presented every third year, provides annual financial support for the scholarship, teaching and service of a tenured professor whose record and promise of achievement are exceptional.

Kerby is widely known for his expertise in amphibian disease. Since arriving at USD 12 years ago, he has published over 50 papers and garnered over $1.5 million in research funding. A recipient of USD’s President’s Research Award in 2011, Kerby has led the field in developing new methods for detecting amphibian pathogens from the skin of frogs. His is one of a dozen laboratories in the country that runs diagnostic samples regularly for researchers across the world. He is the associate editor for two scientific journals and on the board of governors for the American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology, the top society in North America for the study of fish, amphibians and reptiles. He also just finished serving a term as head of a National Task Force consisting of over 100 scientists working to prevent the introduction of a new deadly amphibian pathogen into North America.

A recipient of numerous teaching awards at USD, including the Belbas Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2014, Kerby employs innovative pedagogical approaches to the courses he teaches, which include Majors Introductory Biology, Disease Ecology, Environmental Toxicology and an Honors seminar on the Science of Good Cooking. Throughout his tenure at USD, he has consistently integrated undergraduate students into his research laboratory.

This award exists thanks to the generosity of Truman, ’56 B.A. ’91 honorary doctorate, and Beverly Schwartz, ’56 B.S. Ed. Truman Schwartz became a Rhodes Scholar, earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from M.I.T., worked in industry and then taught for many years at Macalester College, publishing extensively in the fields of physical chemistry and chemical education. Beverly Schwartz was a middle-school teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she taught students with learning disabilities.

“I have met the Schwartzes before and both of them are delightful people,” Kerby said. “I am honored to have been given an award with their name on it. My research focus is on amphibian disease and much of my recent service to my field has been focused on a new fungus threatening to wipe out salamanders across the globe. I plan to use some of the associated funds to travel to Spain this August to help lead the first global meeting focused on this pathogen to work on ways to stop its spread into North America. This work continues to be a great source of first-hand material to instruct my students on the importance of understanding disease dynamics.”

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Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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