SFWS hosts ceremony and reception to honor its 2017 spring graduates



The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, held its 2017 Spring Graduation Ceremony and Reception on Saturday, May 6. Over two hundred family and friends of the 9 graduate students and 43 undergraduates joined faculty and staff in celebration of their academic achievements.

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean, Dr. Janaki Alavalapati, acted as master of ceremonies, providing the welcoming remarks before recognizing the school’s 2017 Spring Graduation Marshal, Wildlife Sciences Pre-vet student, Marisa Pierluisi.

Following Dr. Alavalapati’s remarks, Associate Dean of Research, Dr. Graeme Lockaby, acknowledged faculty, staff and parents and invited graduate and undergraduate students to the podium where they were asked to introduce themselves before receiving a commemorative SFWS lapel pin as a keepsake from the school.

Faculty in attendance were Drs. Christopher Anderson, Lori Eckhardt, Tom Gallagher, Jodie Kenney, Sanjiv Kumar, Susan Pan, Maria Soledad Peresin, Jim Shepard and Mark Smith. Representing the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences during the Spring Commencement were Drs. Lori Eckhardt and Ryan Nadel.

Following the ceremony, the students enjoyed a reception on the school’s patio with their families and friends. (Photos from the ceremony and reception are available for download via Flikr.)

Please join us in congratulating the following graduate and undergraduate students who received their degrees during the spring graduation commencement ceremonies:

Graduate Degrees Conferred:

MS, Natural Resources

Megan Bartholomew (Maj. Professor, Chris Anderson)

MS, Wildlife Sciences

John Draper (Maj. Professor, Todd Steury)

Todd Jacobsen (Maj. Professor, Stephen Ditchkoff)

Kevyn Wiskirchen (Maj. Professor, Stephen Ditchkoff)

MS, Forestry

Seval Celik (Maj. Professor, Latif Kalin)

Andrea Cole-Wahl (Maj. Professor, Lori Eckhardt)

John Lancaster (Maj. Professor, Tom Gallagher)

Cameron Poyner (Maj. Professor, Joseph Fan)

MNR, MS Natural Resources (Non-thesis)

James Clayton Glass (Maj. Professor, Edward Loewenstein)

Maisa Cook (Maj. Professor, Bob Gitzen)

Chase Seals (Maj. Professor, Edward Loewenstein)

PHD, Applied Economics (Forestry)

Ying Lin (Maj. Professor, Daowei Zhang)

PHD, Forestry

Shree Sharma Dangal (Maj. Professor, Hanqin Tian)

Hamed Majidzadeh (Maj. Professor, B.G. Lockaby)


Undergraduate Degrees Conferred:


Noah Barcroft, Tyler Baxter, Forrest Bradley, Charles “David” Cauley, William Cook, Zachary “Shane” Dunning, Cody Hartzog, Jordan Heath, Thomas “Bryant” Jernigan, Dyer Jones, Truett Lawrence, Wilson Lowe, Kyle Malone, Lincoln McClearen, Grant Rutland, Christopher Turner, Nathan Williams, Stathon Wilson

Wildlife Sciences, Pre-Veterinarian

Sarah McWhorter, Marisa Pierluisi, Laura Raines, Chara Wood

Wildlife Ecology and Management

Travis Culbreth, Holly Peacock Davis, Matthew George, Amber Hall, Thomas “Bryant” Jernigan, Amy Johnson, Xena Smith, Rachael Vise, Chelsea Warner

Natural Resources Management

Max Birdsong, Cedric Ellis, Dallas Gentry, James Gnan, Dana Higgins, Ben Holcomb, Samuel Morris, Ethan Reece, Stinson Thompson, Tarah Vick, Amberly Ware, Rachel Womack

The ceremony and reception were hosted by the Office of Student Services’ Director, Dr. Jodie Kenney, and Coordinator of Student Recruitment and Events, Wendy Franklin.


SFWS Research Fellow John Kush inducted to Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame

Research Fellow John Kush leads a Forest Fire Management class at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest in Auburn where he discusses concerns and potential issues with the prescribed burn area with the students. Photo credit: Chase Seals, SFWS Master’s of Natural Resources graduate.


School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Research Fellow John Kush was named the 2017 inductee to the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame at the Southeastern Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet held in Miramar Beach, Florida.

As an Alabama resident and forestry graduate, Kush was considered for the Hall of Fame due to his outstanding contributions to forestry in Alabama over the course of his forty-year career.

A native of Illinois, Kush graduated with high honors in 1980 with a BS in Forest Science from the University of Illinois/Urban Champaign and then worked briefly as an urban forester in the city of Park Ridge, IL, a suburb of Chicago.  In 1981, Kush came to Auburn University as a graduate research assistant in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, where he first began to work with southern forest ecosystems.

Upon graduating with his MS in forestry he transitioned to a research associate position within the SFWS where he would eventually become the data collection and analysis team lead for the USDA Forest Service’s Regional Longleaf Pine Growth Study, activities he would continue to oversee for more than 30 years.

Later, after earning his Ph.D. in forest ecology from Auburn in 2002, Kush became a research fellow, where he has continued his work with longleaf pine, fire and other aspects of southern forest management.

Among his many achievements, Kush has published four book chapters, produced over 30 referred journal articles, and provided countless abstracts, presentations and posters.

“Dr. Kush has begun to reach beyond his work with longleaf pine to focus on shortleaf pine and oak systems, and restoration ecology,” noted John McGuire, a former colleague and senior project manager with Westervelt Ecological Services.

Kush is a senior ecologist with the Ecological Society of America, a position which speaks to his desire to bridge the gap between the disparate fields of classic ecology and forestry. “This bridge IS the future of Alabama Forestry and Dr. Kush is leading the charge across it,” said McGuire.

Character, integrity and contributions to the community in which the forester resides are also considered by the organization’s awards sub-committee.

Kush’s work has involved outreach education where he has organized and participated in many landowner and youth field days and workshops such as Ag Discovery Day, Science Olympiad (leaf and tree event organizer), and Escambia Experimental Forest Anniversary field days.

Throughout his career, Kush has invested significant time and energy to cultivating the next generation of foresters. Since he began instructing classes with the SFWS in 2002, Kush has taught Silviculture, Forestry Summer Practicum, Forest Measurements I, Forest Stand Dynamics, Forest Ecology, and Longleaf Pine Ecology, Management, and Restoration. Most recently he has co-led the implementation of the SFWS’ first online professional certification course in Restoration Ecology that will begin enrollment this fall.

Known for his infectious passion and intimate knowledge of Alabama forestry resources, qualities that have endeared him to many students over the years; Kush has been awarded Forestry Teacher of the Year multiple times, including 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Kush was also recently awarded the Auburn University 2017 Spirit of Sustainability Award which recognizes the accomplishments of students, faculty, staff and alumni who “exemplify the Auburn spirit by making significant contributions toward sustainability on campus or in the community.”

To be inducted in the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame, a nominee must receive unanimous approval of the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame Award Sub-committee members.

“For many in my field, Dr. Kush’s name is synonymous with longleaf pine ecology and history will equate Dr. Kush with advancing the silvics of longleaf pine,” said McGuire. “His work has increased our understanding of longleaf pine growth and yield, longleaf pine old-growth dynamics, fire ecology and restoration.”

Inductees’ biographical sketch and portrait are enshrined within the Archives of the Ralph Brown Draughon Library at Auburn University, and engraved with the names of all inductees, by year of induction, within the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame plaque that is permanently displayed at the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

“Dr. Kush is the embodiment of the servant leader that will make his name plate shine bright with the others on the Hall of Fame for the Society of American Foresters,” said McGuire.


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.



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.



Graduate Student Research Open House scheduled on March 22

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will host a graduate student research open house on Wednesday, March 22 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. The open house serves 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.

Interested community members and alumni, as well as Auburn University administration, faculty, staff and students are invited to attend the poster presentation and reception from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Conference Hall, Room 1101. For more information, please contact the School’s Associate Dean of Research, Dr. Graeme Lockaby, at lockabg@auburn.edu.




Auburn Deer Lab research the recent focus of the national television program, Destination Whitetail

The white-tailed deer research at the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Deer Lab was recently the highlight of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine’s national cable television program, Destination Whitetail, aired on December 21 on the Sportsman Channel.

Wildlife Professor, Stephen Ditchkoff, and his research team, showcased their efforts at the Auburn Deer Lab to better understand deer behavior, reproductive health, biology and genetics. Along with Ditchkoff, research associate, Chad Newbolt, and graduate student, Carolyn Moore, shared the Deer Lab’s goals and research techniques with viewers.

In addition to the regularly scheduled features, the Deer Lab research team also contributes monthly to Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. States Ditchkoff, “Hopefully insights from our research on white-tailed deer behavior and biology can be useful for both hunters and wildlife managers across the U.S.”

Auburn University’s Deer Lab facilitates its research at the Captive Research Facility located in Camp Hill, AL and on public and privately owned land throughout the southeastern U.S.

Founded in 1977, Deer & Deer Hunting was America’s first whitetail-only publication. The popular TV show is entering its 12th season, and airs on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET.

View the episode online at https://youtu.be/TQM0uZUwSl8 or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deerhuntingmag.

Learn more about the Auburn University Deer Lab at http://wp.auburn.edu/deerlab/.




SFWS students participate in Auburn’s Three Minute Thesis competition



Andrea Cole-Wahl, shown with Maj. Prof. Lori Eckhardt and Dean Alavalapati was awarded People's Choice during the competition.

Andrea Cole-Wahl, shown with Maj. Prof. Lori Eckhardt and Dean Alavalapati was awarded People’s Choice during the competition.

Auburn University held its 2016 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition Friday, Nov. 18 at the auditorium of The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center.

The finalists are the top competitors from a series of preliminaries held Oct. 25 and 26. Of the eleven chosen, three School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences graduate students competed, including: Andrea Cole-Wahl (Maj. Prof. Lori Eckhardt), Yecheng Xu (Maj. Prof. Yaoqi Zhang), and Marissa Jo Daniel (Maj. Prof. Tom Gallagher).

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland. The exercise challenges graduate students to present a compelling oration on their thesis or dissertation topic and its significance in just three minutes. 3MT develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills and supports the development of research students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

Andrea Cole-Wahl, a forestry graduate student, presented her research on the project, Could Sirex Woodwasps be a threat to Alabama Forest Health? Sirex noctilio is a woodwasp that is an invasive pest that causes devastating economic losses in areas that it has been introduced. This pest was discovered in New York in 2004, and has since been moving south through natural and planted pine forests.

“My thesis focuses on a survey to determine what woodwasps are in the state of Alabama, and how the wasps, along with their symbiotic fungi, would affect forest health in Southeastern pine stands,” said Cole-Wahl. “I also studied how the associated fungus would compete with native fungi, and how the growth rates of these fungi would be affected by pines commonly found in the Southeast,” she noted.

“It is not every day that I can get people interested about hearing about wasps, and I am appreciative that I get to share my thesis work with a broader audience through the 3MT competition,” said Cole-Wahl.

Yecheng Xu’s presentation topic, Herders’ Livelihood on Mongolia Plateau, explores how the loss of mobility associated with nomadism in Inner Mongolia, now regarded as a major cause for grassland degradation, has impacted the vulnerability and resilience of this society. Xu, a forest economics and management graduate student, chose Inner Mongolia as a case study to demonstrate how “new mobility” may change the sustainability of animal husbandry.

His research argues that mobility should be redefined with changing transportation. “Traditional nomadic life built upon mobility cannot possibly face the challenges of population increases or take advantage of new mobility, which has been generated by new technologies, emerging markets and institutions, said Xu. “My research will demonstrate how new mobility can make capital, labor, and livestock products more mobile and cost efficient to transport.”

“We become qualified researchers within our graduate programs, but the 3MT competition is one of the best opportunities to practice presentation skills to effectively allow the public to quickly and easily understand our work,” said Xu. “I am honored to introduce myself and my research work to colleagues and friends.”

Marissa Jo Daniel, a forest operations doctoral candidate, presented the results of her study, Utilization of Phone Application Technology to Record Log Truck Movements in the Southeastern U.S. Delays incurred by loggers hauling wood from the landing to the mill affect profitability and have the potential to make harvesting some areas unfeasible.

According to Daniel, past studies have been conducted to determine the delay time a driver may have at the mill but very little research has been conducted to analyze the drivers wait time at the landing in the woods or the cause of delays a driver may encounter while driving from one location to another.

In order to accurately gather information concerning delay times at the mill, the landing and during travel to and from each location, Daniel created a phone app that would record the driver’s location using GPS as well as an alert which allowed the driver to comment and record the reasons for any delays. From this app, Daniel was able to gather details in real time regarding the delays and as a result, was therefore better able to deduce economic efficiency.

Daniel’s project was funded through the Wood Supply Research Institute. Her preliminary research was conducted in the states of Alabama, Ohio and South Carolina with intentions of expanding it to other portions of the United States.

Through their participation in the 3MT competition, each of the students has gained a greater appreciation for the ability to communicate their research to a general audience. For Daniel, it was reminiscent of another competition.

“I am reminded of a lesson I learned in high school when I was required to recite the FFA Creed at our District competition,” said Daniel. “If we do not believe in the words we speak, and show our belief with the passion we display in those words, why should we expect another to take heart and adhere to it themselves?”

SFWS doctoral student Hamed Majidzadeh also participated as an exhibition presenter with his research, Soil Carbon Dynamics beneath Impervious Surfaces.

Auburn University’s 3MT competition is held each fall. To determine who competes in the 3MT, a preliminary competition is held and the top 10 competitors advance to the university-wide final and compete for cash prizes. Auburn’s winner will advance to represent the university in the regional 3MT competitions.

SFWS forestry graduate student Andrea Wahl-Cole was awarded the People’s Choice; Drug Discovery and Development student, Madison Chandler, took 1st Place; and Chemical Engineering student, Yuan Tian, was awarded 2nd Place.





SFWS graduate student Megan Bartholomew receives top presentation award at the Alabama Water Resources Conference


Bartholomew (center) pictured with Eve Brantley, Auburn associate professor, Extension specialist and AUWRC treasurer, on left, and fellow Forestry and Wildlife Sciences graduate student, Rasika Ramesh, to the right at the Alabama Water Resources Conference in Gulf Shores, Ala.

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences natural resources Master’s student, Megan Bartholomew (Maj. Prof, Christopher Anderson), was recently selected as 1st place student presentation winner for her oral presentation, Long term vegetation response to hydrologic recovery in isolated wetlands, at the 2016 Alabama Water Resources Conference, held in Gulf Shores, Ala., Sept. 8-9.

Established in 1986, the Auburn University Water Resources Center conference provides a forum for showcasing emerging research, education and outreach in all aspects of water resources.

For student presenters, conferences are a great way to share their work and receive unique feedback and ideas from scholars, industry, and stakeholders.

“Conferences are always exciting to participate in and the Alabama Water Resources Conference was no exception,” stated Bartholomew. “I always return invigorated with new ideas and energy from the work presented.’

Bartholomew expects the results from the study will help natural resource managers develop reliable and science based wetland restoration milestones, establish more appropriate restoration timelines, and accurately determine when a restoration project has reached completion.

Student oral presentations were judged on several criteria, including presenter’s knowledge, logic, and understandability of the subject presented, significance and originality of material presented, effective use of audio-visual materials, presentation style and effectiveness as communicator, and quality of responses to questions.

For more information about the Auburn University Water Resources Center conference, visit http://aaes.auburn.edu/wrc/extension-outreach/awrc-conference/.





International Paper hosts gathering of Auburn alumni during recent meeting

ipforestrygradsInternational Paper (IP), a leading manufacturing company of renewable and recyclable packaging materials, recently hosted an employee meeting at their corporate office in Memphis, TN, where Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences graduates posed for a photo.

Shown in the photo provided by IP Regional Manager and AU graduate, David Helm are from left to right: Matt Meyerpeter, David Hand, Michael Walker, David Helm, Sarah Sibley, Jake Smith, Joe Twardy, Ted Crane. Other SFWS graduates missing from the photo include Ricky Everett, Grace Gregson, Wesley Peters, and Jenny Lightfoot, among others.

International Paper employs approximately 53,000 people worldwide and operates in more than 24 countries. Careers with IP include finance, manufacturing, supply chain, and information technology.

IP routinely hires Auburn graduates as fiber supply managers to facilitate the movement of lumber to its manufacturing facilities; many of whom are based in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.

Students interested in internships and careers with IP can visit and interview with company representatives during the SFWS Career Fair scheduled on Nov. 30.

For more information about Auburn’s forestry degrees, visit http://wp.auburn.edu/sfws/students/prospective-students/majors/.



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