Civil Engineer, Sanjiv Kumar, joins the SFWS faculty as part of Auburn’s strategic hiring initiative

Sanjiv Kumar

This May, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences welcomed Assistant Professor Sanjiv Kumar to its faculty. Kumar was hired within Auburn’s multidisciplinary Climate-Human-Earth System Sciences, or CHESS, cluster. In addition to his research, Kumar will teach courses related to the new geospatial and environmental informatics degree program, or GSEI.

The GSEI program offers opportunities for students to learn tools and techniques involved in data collection and development, data management, data analysis, developing prediction model, and applying these skills to environmental decision making.

“I am humbled to be a part of the GSEI program that aims to equip future generation of land/water/forest/agriculture/urban scientist, engineers, and managers with the latest technologies and skill sets necessary for a sound decision making,” said Kumar.

Kumar holds an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Purdue University.

Kumar’s background is in climate and hydrological modeling. His expertise involves using super computers to develop simulations which support the research of land and climate interactions, and their impacts on the availability of natural resources. “My research deals with analyzing big data (of the order of few Tera bytes) to study past and future changes in weather and climate, developing and evaluating numerical models to predict availability of natural resources from season to decades, and analyzing and communicating underlying uncertainties to the decision makers,” Kumar noted.

As part of the CHESS cluster, Kumar and his colleagues will develop models and assessments that can be helpful in improving society’s resiliency against climate extremes and variability and their resulting impacts on weather events such as floods, droughts and hurricanes.

 

Auburn to launch new geospatial and environmental informatics bachelor’s degree

geospatial and environmental informatics degree, launches in fall 2017Auburn University will begin offering a new geospatial and environmental informatics, or GSEI, undergraduate degree this fall within the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The degree program will be collaboratively taught by faculty from the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and the Colleges of Agriculture, Sciences and Mathematics, Engineering and Business.

Geospatial technology refers to all of the software applications that are used to acquire, manipulate and store geographic information. Technologies such as geographic information systems, the global positioning system, satellite-based remote sensing and computer simulations are tools commonly used by all sectors of the economy for planning and decision-making.

Industry and government are increasingly reliant on geospatial technologies to manage the interface between human activity and the environment. These technologies are also employed for business purposes to forecast and analyze potential markets for retail and development.

With its diverse applications, the geographic information system industry is expected to experience continuous growth in the United States, requiring the number of geospatial workers to increase from its current 850,000 nationwide to around 1.2 million by 2018, according to GeoTech, a nonprofit coalition of educational institutions that supports geospatial technology education.

“GSEI graduates can anticipate a wide variety of career opportunities as planners, analysts, consultants, resource managers or developers within public agencies and government, private corporations, consulting firms, non-governmental and other international organizations,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The degree program is designed to provide students rigorous training in fundamental theories, concepts, quantitative tools, analytical technologies and research skills that are used to acquire spatially referenced information and to analyze spatial processes.

Scott Enebak, associate dean of academic affairs for the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said, “This interdisciplinary approach brings together information technology, spatial science, data analysis, natural resources and ecological modeling that enable us to apply science and new technologies toward the sustainable management of the natural world and the efficient use of resources.”

New faculty members Shufen Pan and Sanjiv Kumar, hired within the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences as part of Auburn’s Strategic Cluster Hire Initiative in Climate, Human and Earth System Sciences, will contribute their expertise to the degree curriculum.

The degree program has been aligned with the interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, program of the National Science Foundation designed to enhance knowledge across multiple fields including ecology, agriculture, geosciences, climate science and civil engineering. This approach prepares students to be successful and competitive in this diverse and rapidly growing job market.

The new geospatial and environmental informatics bachelor’s degree was approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education in March and is available for fall 2017 student enrollment. For more information about the degree, go to auburn.edu/sfws or contact the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Office of Student Services at workingwithnature@auburn.edu.

Auburn Professor Graeme Lockaby to present prestigious William H. Patrick Lectureship at international meeting of soil scientists

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Professor Graeme Lockaby will present the William H. Patrick Memorial Lectureship at the 2017 International Annual Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America in October at Tampa, Florida.

Graeme Lockaby, a professor in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, will present the William H. Patrick Memorial Lectureship at the 2017 international annual meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America in October in Tampa, Florida.

Lockaby is Clinton McClure Professor of Forest Biochemistry and Environmental Health and associate dean of research at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. He also serves as director of the Center for Environmental Studies at the Urban-Rural Interface.

The memorial lectureship was established in honor of Patrick, a pioneer of wetland soils research, to recognize a distinguished scientist who has made significant contributions to some aspect of wetland soils.

The 2017 International Annual Meeting is expected to draw more than 4,000 scientists, professionals, educators and students from around the world and features hundreds of presentations on the latest research in agronomy, crop science and soil science.

This year’s theme is “Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future.” Lecturers will present their research related to the topics of biogeochemical processing and cycling of nutrients, heavy metals and pesticides in wetland soils.

Lockaby earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forestry from Clemson University and his doctorate in agronomy and soils from Mississippi State University.

His research focuses on the biogeochemistry of forested floodplains, water quality and the relationships between wetlands and human health. In particular, he has studied relationships between floodplain net primary productivity and circulation of macronutrients through decomposition, litterfall, internal translocation and other pathways and has worked to clarify biogeochemical distinctions between eutrophic and oligotrophic floodplain systems.

Lockaby also investigates the influence of forest loss through urbanization on water and disease vectors for West Nile virus.

He has authored or co-authored 111 refereed journal articles and eight book chapters and has mentored 25 graduate students as major professor.

“Lockaby’s research and professional experiences fit well with this theme and the spirit of the William H. Patrick Lectureship,” stated Bruce Vasilas, Chair of the Patrick Lecturer Committee and Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware.

For more information about the international annual meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, go to www.acsmeetings.org.

 

 

 

SFWS hosts Research Open House 3/22

SFWS Associate Dean of Research (pictured front right) Graeme Lockaby and Graduate Student Coordinator Audrey Grindle (pictured front left) are shown with some of the participating graduate students during the research open house held March 22.

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences hosted its Research Open House, a graduate student poster presentation and reception, on Wednesday, March 22. The open house served as a venue to showcase the diversity of the School’s research program while providing opportunities for graduate students to present their research and network with stakeholders and other members of the academic community.

Over 30 Ph.D. and Master’s graduate students representing research areas within forestry, wildlife and natural resources presented posters at the event that were judged by internal and external faculty. The following students received awards:

1st place tie – Jennifer Price Tack, The endangered hunter: A model and decision-making framework to evaluate state wildlife agency management actions aimed at increasing hunter-generated conservation funds (Maj. Prof. Conor McGowan), and John Draper, Genetic diversity and connectivity of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Alabama (Maj. Prof. Todd Steury)

2nd place – Shelby Zikeli, A methods comparison of ectoparasite quantification in white-tailed deer (Maj. Prof. Sarah Zohdy)

3rd place – John Lancaster, Whole tree transportation method for timber processing depots (Maj. Prof. Tom Gallagher)

4th place tie – Anna Tucker, A network theory approach to evaluate drivers of stopover site use by migratory shorebirds (Maj. Prof. Conor McGowan), Ellary Tucker Williams, Man vs. Pig: A look into the Alabama wild pig conflict (Maj. Prof. Chris Lepczyk), and Michael Ramirez, Impacts of 40% throughfall exclusion on water relations of an 11-year old longleaf pine stand (Maj. Prof. Lisa Samuelson)

Auburn University administration, faculty, staff and students were invited to attend the poster presentation and reception as well as donors, alumni and members of the public. The event is held annually and hosted by the School’s Associate Dean of Research, Dr. Graeme Lockaby.

Students will receive their awards during the SFWS Spring Awards ceremony to be held on Wednesday, April 12. Photos from the event may be viewed online.

 

 

 

 

SFWS faculty, students and alumni receive honors at the 2017 Southeast Society of American Foresters annual meeting

Richard Ahlquist ‘07 is shown presenting the Young Forester of the Year award to Daniel Crawford, fellow SFWS alumnus.

The Southeastern Society of American Foresters recently held its annual meeting and awards banquet at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach, Florida. The event is held annually as an opportunity for professional foresters from Alabama, Florida and Georgia to gather for networking and information sharing with their peers.

This year’s topic, “Sustaining Southeastern Forestry – Healthy Forests, Markets and Policy,” was the theme industry and academic speakers were invited to address regarding the significant economic, environmental, and policy issues affecting the long term viability of forests and forestry in the Southeast.

During the awards banquet, several School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences faculty and students were honored. Professors Mathew Smidt and Daowei Zhang were recognized as SESAF Fellows for their outstanding contributions and service to the society and profession. SFWS Research Associate and Instructor, Dr. John Kush, was inducted to the Alabama Foresters Hall of Fame for his significant research and teaching accomplishments, as well as his lifetime work advancing the silvics of longleaf pine.

The meeting also featured an oral and poster session for graduate students to share and present their work among peers. During the session, three SFWS students received awards, including, Master’s student Andrea Cole Wahl (Maj. Professor, Lori Eckhardt), who won as Best Oral Presenter for her presentation, “The effect of Sirex spp. woodwasps on forest health in Alabama.”

Forestry doctoral student, Gifty Acquah (Maj. Professor, Brian Via), was awarded 1st Place Poster Presentation for her presentation, “Rapid assessment of forest biomass for biofuel applications: A comparative study of three analytical tools.” Master’s student, Rafael Santiago (Maj. Professor, Tom Gallagher), was awarded 2nd Place Poster Presentation, for his research presentation titled, “Coppicing evaluation of short rotation woody crops in the Southeast U.S. to determine appropriate harvesting methods.”

SFWS Alumnus, Daniel Crawford ‘07, was awarded as the Alabama Outstanding Young Forester of the Year. Fellow alum, Ben Whitaker ’07, nominated Crawford for the award. Crawford has been an active member of the SAF since 2005 and currently works as International Portfolio Manager for Resource Management Services (RMS) located in Birmingham. Both Crawford and Whitaker are charter members of the SFWS Compass Circle Young Alumni Society, a new giving program established in 2016 as a means to reconnect alumni with the School and its current students.

 

 

1st National Wild Pig Task Force meets in Florida

Management of invasive wild pigs has been a hot topic in recent years and has arguably become one of the greatest wildlife management challenges facing natural resource professionals.  The damage these animals cause to forestry, agriculture, and natural resources throughout North America has been tremendous and is often measured in billions of dollars of damage each year.  Although many universities, states, and federal agencies have taken steps to resolve damage caused by wild pigs, there hasn’t been any national-level leadership to formalize this effort until now.

Spearheaded by Mark Smith, Mosley Environmental Associate Professor/Extension Specialist, the National Wild Pig Task Force (NWPTF) was established in 2016 to be a technical, scientific, and leadership alliance of federal, tribal, provincial, state and private conservation partners working to control, reduce damage caused by, or in some instances eradicate, free-ranging populations of wild pigs in North America.

The goals of the NWPTF are to provide national leadership and a collective voice for science-based control, damage reduction, and/or eradication of wild pigs, while providing a forum for the exchange of information among the natural resource management field and relevant stakeholder groups. The task force will also serve to identify knowledge gaps in the biology, ecology, and management of wild pigs, address specific resource concerns, policy and management issues, research priorities and outreach needs, and promote and facilitate the applied management of wild pigs to reduce damage.

Smith organized the group’s first biennial meeting in Orange Beach, Alabama in early March where nearly 70 natural resource professionals from across the United States attended.  This meeting provided a venue for participants to learn about the latest effort to control wild pigs from across the country and the latest research developments.  The NWPTF will meet during odd numbered years whereas the group’s flagship research and management meeting, the International Wild Pig Conference, will meet during even numbered years. The next conference will be in Oklahoma City, OK in 2018.

 

 

Wildlife Sciences student, Seth Rankins, nominated for National Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences wildlife ecology and management undergraduate student, Seth Rankins, of Cusseta, Alabama, was recently nominated by the Auburn University Honors College as one of four Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship nominees.

The prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

In awarding scholarships, the foundation of trustees considers the nominee’s field of study and career objectives along with the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the field of science or engineering.

SFWS Professor Stephen Ditchkoff nominated Rankins in recognition of his outstanding commitment to his research with the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Deer Lab.

“There are a large number of undergraduates that assist with our research in the Wildlife Program, but very few students are interested in conducting their own research,” said Ditchkoff. “Seth made it very clear at our initial meeting that he very much wanted to conduct his own research, in addition to publishing and presenting his findings.”

With the guidance of the Deer Lab research team, Rankin’s research project was designed to analyze the feeding patterns of white-tailed deer at baited sites, and examine whether sex or age may influence the time that individual deer spend at these sites. Because baited sites are the foundation for camera surveys that are used for estimating population parameters of white-tailed deer, these data have the potential to highlight biases and study design flaws that could undermine the validity of camera surveys.

Rankins has presented the findings in a professional setting at the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the manuscript that was developed using the same data, where Seth is listed as second author, was recently accepted for publication by the Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“Without question, it is a rare individual that is informed of acceptance of his first publication in a peer-reviewed outlet during the fall of his junior year,” stated Ditchkoff. “Given his intellectual ability, work ethic, and problem-solving skills, Seth has no ceiling regarding what he could accomplish in the future.”

More recently, Rankins has begun working with both Ditchkoff and SFWS Assistant Professor Sarah Zohdy to study tick borne diseases in white-tailed deer. This research includes extracting genomic DNA from over 200 white-tailed deer from a marked population of deer at the Auburn University Deer Lab in an effort to quickly diagnose anaplasmosis and erlichiosis and prevent its spread.

“I believe that this nomination is a reflection of the research professionals that I have had the opportunity to work with here at Auburn,” said Rankins. “Being awarded this scholarship will help me to achieve my goal of going to graduate school in wildlife biology.”

If awarded, Rankins will receive up to a maximum of $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and housing.

 

 

Zohdy pioneers new research to address vector disease in third world countries

Graduate student Shelby Zikeli is examining a bloodslide looking for parasites while undergraduates Kirsten Rice and Llandess Owens set up a mosquito behavior experiment.

Assistant Professor Sarah Zohdy joined the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015 as a disease ecologist. Her research is broadly focused on understanding what drives the movement of infectious agents between humans, animals, and the environment.  At Auburn, she has launched several projects to better understand mosquito behavior and the ecological drivers of transmission dynamics.

Most recently, Zohdy has formed an interdisciplinary research collaboration with Stanford University Bio-Engineering Professor Manu Prakash to streamline the processes of mosquito and disease surveillance. With the assistance of several international agencies, they will hope to discover what drives mosquitoes to sustain transmission cycles, how those infected individuals attract mosquitoes more readily than uninfected hosts, and whether infected mosquitoes exhibit unique behaviors that can be easily detected.

With this information the team’s ultimate goal is building capacity internationally to gain a more precise understanding of the ecological drivers of mosquito-borne disease in order to develop new cost-effective disease control strategies that have the potential to improve human health and well-being.

 

 

Regions Bank establishes Auburn University endowed professorships in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

Two professors in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University are the first to receive new endowed professorships established by Regions Financial Corporation. Associate Professor Brian Via is the Regions Professor in Forest Products, and Professor Tom Gallagher is the Regions Professor in Forest Operations, Utilization, Management and Economics. Pictured from left to right are School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean Janaki Alavalapati, Professor Tom Gallagher and Associate Professor Brian Via.

Two professors in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University are the first to receive new endowed professorships established by Regions Financial Corporation.

Associate Professor Brian Via is the Regions Professor in Forest Products, and Professor Tom Gallagher is the Regions Professor in Forest Operations, Utilization, Management and Economics.

The recently designated professorships will be awarded every five years to associate or full professors who demonstrate a strong commitment to students and the provision of high quality instruction, research and service.

Both accomplished researchers, Via’s research focuses on forest product development from either bioenergy and/or biobased processes while Gallagher specializes in industrial forestry, timber harvesting and transportation of forest biomass.

As a major owner and manager of forest land in Alabama, Regions has a vested interest in maintaining a robust forest products industry, which contributes more than $15 billion annually to the state’s economy. With the creation of the professorships, Regions has partnered with the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to ensure that the forest industry continues to be developed through strong research and education programs at Auburn University.

“Staying on the leading edge is important to the thousands of private forest landowners in Alabama,” said Don Heath, Regions senior vice president of natural resources and real estate. “Having an exemplary academic program at Auburn University can help us achieve and maintain that leading edge in forest products development.”

The Regions professorships are designed to strengthen and enhance the university’s programs through the quality of the faculty members’ work and their ability to serve as positive role models for their colleagues and students. They must have a record of distinguished academic or professional work in their field of study in comparison to their colleagues at peer institutions.

“Our faculty are cutting-edge in terms of forestry enterprise and product innovation,” said School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean Janaki Alavalapati. “In addition to this important research, our efforts to develop leaders to serve these industries will assure the sustainability and growth of Alabama’s economy, both in timber sales and employment.”

 

 

SFWS re-accredited by the Society of American Foresters

In the United States, programmatic accreditation is a non-governmental, peer-review process that assures the quality of the post-secondary education students receive and is voluntary. Academic programs volunteer to undergo this comprehensive review periodically to determine if certain criteria are being met. Accreditation is not a ranking system, it is simply assurance that a degree program meets quality standards established by the profession. Society of American Forester (SAF) accreditation applies to degree programs only, not departments, colleges, institutions, or individuals.  Institutions like the SFWS choose SAF accreditation because it offers several benefits, such as peer-review, recognition of the program’s commitment to quality, and practical insights from the working professionals who review the programs.  SAF is responsible for the accreditation of post-secondary degree-granting programs in forestry, urban forestry, natural resources and ecosystem management, and forest technology. When a degree program becomes SAF-accredited, it demonstrates to students, parents, and employers that the program:

  • Participates in a structured process to assess, evaluate, and improve quality.
  • Involves faculty, staff, and students in the self-assessment and continuous improvement process.
  • Focuses on learning outcomes.
  • Produces graduates who are well prepared for the profession.
  • Meets education standards for registration, licensing, and certification boards.

With the self-study initiated in the fall of 2015, a site visit in spring 2016 and final review in November at the annual SAF Convention, the SAF Committee on Accreditation approved the SFWS forestry-based degrees for accreditation in early 2017, which will be valid through December 31, 2026.

 

 

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