Volunteers Catalog Nearly Two Hundred Species During BioBlitz


Hundreds help Auburn scientists catalog local biodiversity during the day-long event.



Auburn University Department of Biological Sciences Assistant Professor and Invertebrates Collections Manager, Brian Helms, shows children one of the crayfish species found at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest during the BioBlitz held on April 23.

The Alabama Extension System and Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences in cooperation with the College of Science and Mathematics’ Department of Biological Sciences recently hosted a “BioBlitz,” on Saturday, April 23, at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest located in Auburn.

A bioblitz is a hands-on event where participants have the opportunity to learn about local biodiversity while working alongside scientists to survey plants, birds, fish, insects, and other wildlife in an attempt to record all the living species found within an area during a specified period.

Becky Barlow, an Alabama Extension forestry specialist and coordinator of the bioblitz, said that the event, which was attended by nearly 300 members of the community, was a great opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to interact with the public.

“One cool thing about the event is the public was able to work right beside scientists collecting real data,” said Barlow. “Graduate and undergraduate students took part in the event and even took the lead on some of the topics. This was a great opportunity for them to take things they have learned in the classroom and apply them when interacting with the public.”

Barlow and forestry graduate student, Seth Hunt, had long considered the possibility of a bioblitz at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest, both for its academic value and as an educational tool for the general public.

Hunt’s impending graduation and the substantial interest from other Auburn scientists across campus indicated the timing was right for the event. Stated Hunt, “It was great to get the level of involvement from professors, graduate, and undergraduate students from multiple schools within the University to help with the BioBlitz.”

“I had great fun helping lead the tree and understory events and I think that the public, students and even myself benefited from the experience. I was genuinely humbled by the turn out and hope to make the bioblitz something that continues to take place,” said Hunt.

During the daylong event, preliminary results indicated the group was able to catalog nearly 200 species, including at least 24 types of trees, 39 plants, 40 birds, 26 insects, 18 types of reptiles and amphibians, 10 fish, 12 aquatic invertebrate, 12 mammals, 10 fungi, two crayfish, and two varieties of butterflies.

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences wildlife graduate student, Mary Bennett, appreciated the opportunity to interact with other research professionals from Auburn. “We collected a lot of great data for MOT and it was exciting to share in everyone’s enthusiasm for the event.”

Throughout the day hands-on activities were offered for children to learn about Alabama’s rich biodiversity. The Auburn University Museum of Natural History provided “fossil bags” for children to identify prehistoric insects. Other “BioBlitz Junior” activities included creating casts of animal tracks and building bird houses provided by the Home Depot.

The Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve was also on hand to provide live animal encounters of native species of reptiles and amphibians. The “Critter Caravan,” designed to be a traveling educational program offered for schools and private groups, featured such animals as the corn snake, box turtle, and the lesser known, legless lizard.

Jennifer Lolley, outreach administrator of the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, commented, “Anytime you get 300 people out for a first time science event, it is a big success!” Lolley expressed how valuable it is to have a species inventory, particularly for an educational facility; noting that they hoped to have a bioblitz event at the preserve in the spring of 2017.

A final tally of the species found on the property will be available in the coming months. The 2016 BioBlitz was sponsored in part by Home Depot, Publix, Kroger and Sam’s Club.

For more information about BioBlitz, contact Becky Barlow via phone (334) 844-1019 or email at rjb0003@aces.edu. To view more photos, visit the SFWS photo album at Flickr.

About the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest:

Located along Moore’s Mill Road just east of Auburn, Alabama, the Mary Olive Thomas (MOT) Demonstration Forest is a 400 acre forest that is used to show landowners’ forest and wildlife management practices that could be used to enhance the value of their land. Thanks to the generosity of Mary Olive Thomas, this forest has been used by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences (SFWS) since 1977 and was designated as an Alabama Treasure Forest in 1979. In keeping with Ms. Thomas’ wishes, this demonstration forest continues to be managed with the private landowner in mind, demonstrating many different land management techniques.


Mark Smith advises on wild pig management in Forest Landowner magazine

Smith - Forest Landowner May-June 2016SFWS Associate Professor and Extension Specialist Mark Smith provided advice for land owners regarding wild pig management in his recent article, Hogging the Forest, featured in the May/June issue of Forest Landowner magazine. Read the full article.









Auburn University celebrates its seventh designation as Alabama’s Tree Campus USA


Toyota Motors Manufacturing of Alabama joined with representatives from Auburn University, agencies and urban forestry professionals to dedicate the first swamp white oak during the tree planting. Seen with shovels from left to right are: Jeneen Horton of Toyota; Michelle Cole of SFWS; Dale Dickens of the Alabama Forestry Commission; Alex Hargreave, AU arborist; Tim Sullivan, University of Alabama; Bonner Lee, AU landscape architect; and Duane Lamb, AU landscape and grounds supervisor.

Auburn University celebrated its seventh designation as Alabama’s Tree Campus USA on April 5 with a ceremony and campus tree planting at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The Tree Campus USA program is an Arbor Day Foundation program sponsored in partnership with Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

To be considered for the Tree Campus USA designation, a school must demonstrate it supports the Arbor Day Foundation’s five core values by establishing a tree advisory committee, creating a campus tree-care plan, dedicating an annual budget for tree care, establishing an Arbor Day observance and sponsoring student service-learning projects.

The multi-departmental effort included representatives from SFWS, Facilities Management, and Landscape Services in partnership with AU’s Tree Advisory Committee.

“Having been recognized as a Tree Campus USA in 2009 and recertified every year since is a true honor and reflects Auburn University’s commitment to the care and preservation of one of our greatest resources,” said Gary Keever, professor of horticulture and a Facilities Management landscape consultant.

Auburn University President, Jay Gogue, SFWS Associate Dean of Research and Director, Center for Environmental Studies at the Urban-Rural Interface (CESURI), Graeme Lockaby, and CESURI’s Outreach Director, Michelle Cole, welcomed attendees and opened the program with remarks on behalf of Auburn University.

Jeneen Horton of Toyota Motors Manufacturing of Alabama, program sponsor, and Dale Dickens, of the Alabama Forestry Commission, formally presented the award to Auburn University as Alabama’s 2015 State Tree Campus USA.

Alex Hedgepath, Auburn’s first arborist, also addressed the group and led the tree planting with Landscape Services staff and volunteers.

Following the tree planting, attendees and volunteers participated in a networking luncheon to exchange valuable ideas and techniques to protect and promote urban forestry in the state.

For more information about the Tree Campus USA program, please visit https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecampususa/

AU staff, faculty, volunteers and agency volunteers from across the state gather for a photo after planting 50 trees on the campus.

AU staff, faculty, volunteers and agency volunteers from across the state gather for a photo after planting 50 trees on the campus.




SFWS to Celebrate International Day of Forests

INTL Day of Forests

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will host an informational program and photo contest to commemorate the United Nations’ global celebration of forests Monday, March 21.

Created to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests, the annual International Day of Forests provides a platform to communicate the vital role forests play in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security.

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will mark the occasion with an exhibition, “Forests and Water,” highlighting how forests are vital to the supply of freshwater essential for people’s life. It will be held in the atrium March 21 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

“Many people are aware of the issues concerning global deforestation, but may not fully understand the influence of forests on the quality and availability of fresh water. This occasion provides an opportunity for SFWS to engage our community on this important function of forests,” stated Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The school will also host a photo contest for Auburn University students, who are invited to share their photos of forests and tree-planting initiatives showing the world how trees, forests and their surrounding environments make a difference to communities. A panel will judge each photo based on its essence and merit, and the best photo will be recognized on April 4.  Participants may submit their photos between March 21 and 28.

Forests cover one-third of global land surface, providing key ecosystem goods and services including water, food and energy around the world. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems that provide home to more than 80 percent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Similarly, around 1.6 billion people depend on forests, directly or indirectly, for their livelihood.

Although forests provide numerous societal, ecological, economic and health benefits, deforestation and forest degradation continues at an alarming rate, accounting for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Sustainable management of all types of forests are at the heart of unlocking challenges of conflict-affected, developing and developed countries, for the benefit of current and future generations,” notes United Nations officials.

Key facts related to forests and water:

• 75 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater are supplied by forested watershed and wetlands.
• One-third of the world’s largest cities obtain their drinking water from forested areas.
• Forests act as natural water filters by minimizing soil erosion on site, reducing sediment in water bodies and trapping water pollutants in the forest litter.
• Climate change is altering forests’ role in regulating water flows by increasing catastrophes such as floods, droughts and landslides.

For more information about the program and photo contest, contact Shree Dangal at szs0091@auburn.edu or call (814) 880-5566.


Photo Contest Guidelines:


Photo Criteria:

  1. 70% – relevance to this year International Day of Forests theme “Forests and Water”
  2. 30% – Artistic value and Communication potential

Photo specification:

  1. Entry must be contestant’s original work
  2. Each contestant can only submit one entry
  3. Photo must be in JPEG format with at least 300 dpi, size should not be more than 10MB.
  4. The contestants must not have used the photo for other services or published in any

Procedures for Submission:

  1. File name of the image must be in the format “Lastname_Title of the image”.jpeg (For example:
  2. The following information should be included in the email:
  3. Full Name
  4. Complete Address
  5. Email Address
  6. Photo Title
  7. Date Photo Taken (Year, Month)
  8. Place Taken
  9. Any other information about the image.

Start day of Submission: 21 March 2016, Monday

End day of Submission: 28 March 2016, Monday by 12:00 PM (CT).

Any entries submitted after the deadline will be automatically disqualified. Winner will be announced on 4 April, 2016, Monday.




Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center to Host Dixon Legend, 5K, 10K and Half Marathon, March 12

ForestryIconThe School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences’ Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center is hosting its inaugural 5K, 10K and Half Marathon race March 12 in Andalusia.

The Dixon Legend will provide an off-road opportunity to explore the diverse forests of the Dixon Center’s more than 5,300 acres. The race will offer a challenge for all fitness levels and will traverse the property’s network of dirt roads and trails through upland hardwood forests, across stream bottoms and through the rolling hills of the center’s fire-maintained Longleaf Pine ecosystems.

Trail runs or off-road races have become increasingly popular in recent years. There are only a handful offered in the state and this race promises to be one of the more scenic. Local race director Jennifer O’Neal says of the race, “If you are looking for a great run to get you off the main road, this is it. No traffic, dogs or confusing routes to deal with. Just some trails in the middle of God’s country with the sounds of birds singing and breezes blowing through the trees.”

Realizing the untapped potential of the facility for just such an experience, Robin Kelley, race organizer and owner of Auburn’s RaceKrewe, jumped at the chance to be involved. “The Dixon Legend is a unique opportunity, truly one of its kind with the course set entirely on the beautiful trails and unimproved roads of the Dixon Center. It’s truly a win-win for these racers and the center.”

The property, which is adjacent to the Conecuh River and National Forest, was deeded by Solon and Martha Dixon to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences 35 years ago. Today, the Dixon Center is considered one of the finest educational facilities of its type in the nation. The Center functions as a program venue and outdoor classroom for a variety of user groups, including students, practitioners and land owners. Other groups visit the center simply to learn about and enjoy nature.

Historically, the center has depended on timber sales and agricultural and hunting leases to supplement its operating budget. According to the center’s director, Joel Martin, “Over the last 10 years, we have increased the center’s occupancy rates tremendously with its core users. Though to be fully self-sustaining, we are encouraging other groups to use the facility. This race will expose the center to a different set of outdoor enthusiasts and hopefully, some of them will find it to be an ideal event venue for their business, organization or family.”

The race is open to runners 10 and over. Race details and online registration are available via the Dixon Center website at http://sdfec.auburn.edu/race.html. Registrations received prior to Feb. 26 will receive a race T-shirt. First- and second-place finishers in each race will be awarded for male/female overall winners and specified age classes (see race form). Completion medals will be awarded for the half marathon only. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Email Joel Martin at marti12@auburn.edu or call (334) 222-7779 for more information. The race will be held at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center located at 12130 Dixon Center Road, Andalusia, Alabama, 36420. A limited number of dorm-style rooms are available for reservation at the Dixon Center. However, alternative accommodations can be found within the nearby communities of Brewton and Andalusia. Visit http://www.explorebrewton.com/ or https://www.andalusiachamber.com/ to learn more.

Forestry Youth Camp Registration Now Open


Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) and Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences (SFWS) are offering Forestry Field Camp in 2016! Alabama has a wealth of forest related natural resources. It is the third most forested US state – two out of every three acres in Alabama is forested!

This hands-on camp will give students an opportunity to get outdoors and learn about forestry in Alabama and the importance of forestry field measurements in making forest management decisions.

To learn more or register, visit AU Youth Programs






Auburn’s 1st Tiger Giving Day a Success for Kreher Preserve

Auburn University donors contributed more than $411,936 during the university’s first-ever Tiger Giving Day, a 24-hour university-wide crowdfunding initiative on Dec. 1. The university set out to raise $327,500 for 24 unique projects based in Auburn’s colleges, schools and units. Of those 24 projects, 18 met or exceeded their goals, some by as much as 350 percent.

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Office of Development chose the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center (KPNC), an outreach program of the School, as its focus for the inaugural crowd-funding campaign, with a project funding goal of $6,000 for the purchase and installation of a spider web playground apparatus for its nature playground.

The KPNC nature-based playground, one of the first of its kind in Alabama, offers children rich naturalistic play spaces and creative structures such as a beaver lodge, eagle’s nest, tree house, and teepee. With this funding, the KPNC will incorporate a “spider web” into the playground to compliment the other structures in the play area. The bouncy character of the secured rope web offers children of all ages the opportunity to develop climbing skills. As they master the web, the climbing helps the children to develop their muscle strength and coordination, while building their self-confidence and a positive association with arachnids.Spider web photo

The SFWS is grateful to the donors who helped the campaign to exceed its initial goal, raising a total of $9,370 or 155% of its goal, during the 48 hour period. Additional funds beyond the cost of the apparatus will enhance the playground area with with an Arachnid Learning Kiosk and a much-needed picnic area for visitors to the playground.

This campaign was considered a success for many reasons. The AU Tiger Giving Day was an excellent opportunity for the SFWS to raise awareness in the community about the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center and to underscore its purpose to help youth by exposing children to the wonders of nature, educating them about conservation, and encouraging them to be active and fit.

Since 1993, the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center has provided the community with an outdoor preserve – complete with five miles of hiking trails, an amphitheater, a pavilion and a nature playground – open from sunrise to sunset with no admission fees. Louise Kreher Turner and Frank Allen Turner gifted the 120-acre property to Auburn as a place where School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences students and faculty could engage the community through educational programs and also conduct field studies and academic research. Now one of the area’s most popular nature destinations, the preserve attracts more than 25,000 visitors annually and provides educational programs for nearly 5,000 K-12 students and 3,000 residents each year.

To read more about Auburn University’s Tiger Giving Day, visit AU Newsroom.

Support the KPNC on Tiger Giving Day, Dec 1st



Kreher Preserve and Nature Center Outreach Administrator, Jennifer Lolley, shown at the KPNC nature playground.

Mark your calendars for the first-ever Auburn University Tiger Giving Day on Tuesday, December 1st! This 24-hour fundraising event will highlight the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center’s Spider Web as well as other projects across campus. Donations to this project will support the purchase and installation of a spider web playground apparatus to enhance the nature playground for children visiting the preserve!

Stay tuned to tigergiving.org! In the meantime, you can learn more about the KPNC Spider Web project with this short video or contact Sharon Tatum, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Development Coordinator, at 334-844-1983 or email sst0003@auburn.edu to make your donation today!

Please help us to spread the word about this crowd funding project! Share the video with your friends on your social media networks and ask them to make a donation on Dec. 1st! All contributions will help to make this great playground feature a reality for the kids!Spider web photo


Munford High School Students Helping to Monitor Northeastern Black Bear

BearSnareFieldShotStudents from Munford High School in Talladega County have partnered with SFWS wildlife faculty to help estimate bear populations in northeastern Alabama. Munford Schools focus on providing students with experiential learning experiences to better prepare them for college and future careers.

In its second year, the black bear study led by Auburn University, with the support from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is using minimally invasive hair snares to collect samples for DNA analysis. Once hair samples are identified to individuals, the pattern of capture and recapture of each individual bear across the landscape is used to model bear population size and density in the study area.

Student participation allows the researchers to broaden their study area while at the same time providing invaluable hands-on learning experiences for the students. Todd Steury, associate professor of wildlife ecology stated, “This year we are able to partner with the Munford High School to help sample along the southern border of our study area in the Talladega National Forest and adjoining private land. Bear sightings have been confirmed in this section, but without the students’ assistance, it is impractical for us to sample there while we focus on areas with a higher degree of bear activity.”

On September 4, SFWS graduate student John Draper and undergraduate Alex Beaver led a group of three Munford High School teachers and five students into the field to deploy the hair snares within the research area. Following the initial set up, the high school class will be responsible for visiting the sites each week to check the snares, collect samples, record the data from their visits, and manage the snare equipment.
Draper, a lead researcher for the project, noted, “Working with Munford Schools has allowed us to expand our sampling area while giving us the chance to reach out to future scientists and introduce them to the practical realties of field work.” He added, “This sort of outreach allows us to connect with the local community in a way that exponentially spreads knowledge about black bears in Alabama and their conservation.”

Among the participants, Talladega County Board Member Johnny Ponder expressed his enthusiasm for the student’s ability to participate in the first black bear research project focused on northeastern Alabama. “It’s very exciting to them, to the organizers, and to the general public. I’m proud of our students and thankful to all that are responsible for giving them this opportunity.”

Rachel Wallace, a high school senior said of the experience, “Munford has taken a whole new spin on project-based learning when it comes to collecting DNA from bears. I have been exposed to so many amazing opportunities just by going out once a week setting and checking traps. This is a project that I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life, just because of the teachers I am working with and the skills I am learning.”

Permanent endowment for the SFWS Kreher Preserve and Nature Center created in honor of the late Nicholas Holler

Shown with Holler (center) during a recent program held at the KPNC are its Outreach Administrator Jennifer Lolley (left) and School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Development Coordinator Sharon Tatum (right).

Shown with Holler (center) during a recent program held at the KPNC are its Outreach Administrator Jennifer Lolley (left) and School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Development Coordinator Sharon Tatum (right).

A recently established permanent endowment by Margaret Holler of Auburn will benefit the operations and community programs of the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, also known as the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center, or KPNC. Equally important, it honors the devotion to conservation and environmental education demonstrated by her late husband, Nicholas “Nick” Holler.

Since 1993, the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center has provided the community with an outdoor preserve – complete with five miles of hiking trails, an amphitheater, a pavilion and a nature playground – open from sunrise to sunset with no admission fees. Louise Kreher Turner and Frank Allen Turner gifted the 120-acre property to Auburn as a place where School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences students and faculty could engage the community through educational programs and also conduct field studies and academic research. Now one of the area’s most popular nature destinations, the preserve attracts more than 25,000 visitors annually and provides educational programs for nearly 5,000 K-12 students and 3,000 residents each year. Read more




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