Wildlife Sciences to offer students study abroad experience in Africa

 

 

img_1651Next summer, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will for the first time in its history offer wildlife ecology and management and wildlife pre-vet majors an opportunity to gain exposure to wildlife management and conservation issues in southern Africa.

During the 15-day trip scheduled for early August 2017, eligible wildlife students will tour four parks/preserves in Swaziland and will spend two days in Kruger National Park in South Africa. The home base for most of the trip will be within the Mbuluzi Game Reserve located on the banks of the Mlawula River in Swaziland, where they will be conducting daily field activities in this conservation area.

Historical and cultural issues in the region, combined with an extremely unique assemblage of large mammals and other wildlife communities, have created a scenario where many large mammal species are threatened or even critically endangered.  The highly publicized conflict between conservation of wildlife and the value on the black market of body parts of some of these species is one example of the challenges that wildlife managers face in the region.

What is less highly publicized is the issue of land conversion for agriculture and development and the few natural areas that are suitable for populations of large mammals that require considerable space for their existence. SFWS students will be exposed to these management and conservation issues during the trip, which will help them to gain an appreciation for and understanding of the importance of working within economic, social, and cultural constraints when managing wildlife.

Additionally, students will gain considerable hands-on experience. As part of new research projects on impala and guinea fowl, they will have the opportunity to capture, handle, and radio-collar these species. They will also work with game cameras to conduct large mammal surveys in some of the conservation preserves in which they visit. These activities will allow the students to develop an understanding of the unique ecology of African large mammals and their environment.

“Students will trap large mammals, go on birding tours, and have the opportunity to view numerous species of large mammals in their natural environment,” said Wildlife Professor Stephen Ditchkoff, who toured the area this summer and will lead the group. He added that students can expect to see lion, leopard, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, kudu, bushbuck, nyala, zebra, hippo, warthog, crocodile, baboons, and a large variety of unique bird species.

South Africa’s breadth of wildlife and expansive wilderness areas provide a unique environment where it is possible to observe natural behaviors associated with migration, feeding and social dynamics, free of human controls or influence. “This type of experience cannot be replicated in a classroom, zoo, or even on film,” said Ditchkoff.

The experiential knowledge gained through study abroad is widely known to offer students a host of benefits that contribute to personal growth, improved skills, and enhanced academic learning and performance. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, international experiences are pivotal for broadening a student’s aptitude for cross-cultural communications, understanding global challenges, and developing leadership skills that will equate to advanced career opportunities.

Rising wildlife juniors and seniors from Auburn and Louisiana State University have been issued an invitation to participate. Deposits for the next trip will be required by early spring 2017. Fees will include all airfare, lodging, park passes, supplies, food, and ground transportation. For more information about this opportunity, contact Stephen Ditchkoff at ditchss@auburn.edu.

 

 

Glenn and Flavin Glover establish Fund for Excellence to support faculty development

patagonia-glenn-flavin

 

Glenn and Flavin Glover, both 1973 graduates, recently created The Faculty Enhancement Endowed Fund for Excellence in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. The fund will be used to advance and enrich individual faculty member’s careers, particularly junior faculty, by supporting  activities such as travel to professional or scientific meetings; summer research; grant support; research, teaching or extension publications and software, as well as equipment; or other needs and activities that will advance the faculty member’s profession.

Glenn Glover has experienced the school from every perspective, as an undergraduate student; graduate student; research associate; and assistant, associate and full professor. In addition to his research and extension appointments, Glover taught forest measurement and wood procurement courses. He also served as biometrician and director of the AU Silvicultural Herbicide Cooperative, retiring in 2006 as professor emeritus.

Flavin Glover worked as an arts and crafts therapist, program director of adult day treatment and director of clinic operations for East Alabama Mental Health Center from 1972 until her retirement in 1998.

“Over my 31-year career, I grew as the school grew and changed,” he said. “In 1994 I volunteered as chairman of the chool’s building committee to, in part, give back to the school for all that it had provided me over many years – two degrees, financial support while in school, and a rewarding career.”

Understanding the struggle that faculty, particularly early in their careers, often has in developing programs, the Glovers were inspired to develop an endowment that would support faculty enhancement.

“Our hope is that our contribution to the school will help faculty members establish and enhance their careers and become better faculty members as they serve the students, the university, and the people of Alabama, ” said Glenn Glover.

 

 

SFWS faculty member discusses impact of feral pigs with media after recent arrests in the state

 

wildpigSFWS Wildlife Professor Stephen Ditchkoff recently discussed the negative impacts of an expanding feral hog population with WLTZ NBC-38 reporter Dorothy Sherman in response to the arrest of thirteen Alabama residents for the illegal transport and release of the animals.

Follow the link to view the news report and transcript.

http://www.wltz.com/story/33819736/13-alabamians-arrested-for-transport-release-or-possession-of-live-feral-pigs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 to offer new electives for AU students

 

urban rural interfaceThe School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will offer five new 3-credit hour courses for the spring 2017 semester that will be of interest to students who wish to explore concepts and decision making strategies for natural resources management and economics, land-use planning, and sustainability. Prerequisites are not required or are waived for the elective classes which are open to all Auburn University students.

Two of the classes offered are part of the school’s proposed new degree program, Geospatial and Environmental Informatics, which is anticipated to launch in the fall of 2017 pending approval by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Course credit for Digital Earth and Introduction to Environmental Informatics will apply toward completion of the degree for students who later declare this major.

Digital Earth (GSEI 1200) will be taught by Assistant Professor Susan Pan and is scheduled Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00 – 1:50 p.m. The course is designed to introduce students from all disciplines to geospatial technologies, spatial thinking, and evolving job markets in this area. Students will explore how innovative geospatial technologies are changing the world around us, including how we interact with the environment and each other.

Introduction to Environmental Informatics (GSEI 2070) will be taught by Assistant Professor Sanjiv Kumar (email: Dr. Susan Pan). The lecture and lab are offered Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. – 10: 45 a.m. and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The course will introduce students to the environment as a system of linked, interactive components where geographic information science, mathematical and statistical modeling, remote sensing, database management, knowledge integration, and science informs environmental decision-making.

Natural Resource Finance and Investment (FOWS 5620/6620), will be held Monday evenings from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. and is taught by Adjunct Professor Richard Hall. This course aims to provide students with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of corporate, real estate and project finance principles and  how these principles can be applied to various types of natural resources.

Frontiers for Sustainable Biomaterials (BIOP 2120) will be taught by Assistant Professor Maria Soledad Peresin on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00 – 1:50 p.m. This course will introduce students to the concepts of sustainability, biomaterials and resource efficiency in the context of bio-economy. The definition of a bio economy is based on the implementation of sustainable resources to produce materials, food, energy and services, decreasing the dependency on traditionally petroleum based/derived products, while promoting economic development.

Conflict and Collaboration in Natural Resources (FOWS 5456) is offered as an online course that will be taught by Adjunct Professor Miriam Wyman. This senior level undergraduate/graduate level course will provide an overview of major issues, theories, and approaches related to conflict management and collaboration in natural resources.

The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences offers courses and undergraduate and graduate degrees in forestry, wildlife ecology and management, wildlife sciences pre-vet, and natural resources management. For more information about the new electives, download the course syllabi or email workingwithnature@auburn.edu or faculty via the addresses provided.

 

 

 

SFWS faculty give keynote lectures at the 2nd Annual Asian Air Pollution Workshop in Beijing

asian-air-pollution-wksp4Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences faculty, Arthur Chappelka, Hanqin Tian and Susan Pan recently attended the 2nd Annual Asian Air Pollution Workshop in Beijing, China. Scientists from China, Europe and the U.S. attended the conference where Drs. Chappelka and Tian were invited to give keynote lectures on their research.

Asian air pollution has become a global concern, which influences human health and food security.  This workshop provided a forum for scientists to discuss the state-of-the art in measuring, observing and modeling air pollution impacts as well as potential solutions.

Pictured during the workshop from left to right are: Drs. Feng, Chappelka, Tian, Pan and Chen. Dr. Zhaozhong Feng is senior scientist and the conference organizer, and Dr. Hua Zheng is Adjunct Director of State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology.

W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Awards Committees meets to recognize Alabama’s natural resources “unsung heroes”

Members of the multi-agency committee include from left to right: Janaki Alavalapati, Dean, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University; Mark Smith, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Executive Secretary of the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Awards Program Steering and Selection Committee; Chuck Sykes, Director, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Gary Cole, Interim State Forester, Alabama Forestry Commission; Gary Lemme, Director, Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Lloyd Walker, Dean, College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences, Alabama A&M University; Paul Patterson, Dean, College of Agriculture, Auburn University; Joseph Tomasso, Director, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences, Auburn University; Ben Malone, Alabama State Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service; William Puckett, Executive Director, Alabama Soil & Water Conservation Committee; and Jim Armstrong, Extension Coordinator, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University.

The Steering and Selection Committee of the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Awards Program met on October 31, 2016 to evaluate nominations.  Mosley Environmental Awards Program recognizes outstanding volunteer efforts in forestry, wildlife, fisheries, soil, water, air, wildflowers, non-game wildlife, environmental education, conservation, and urban forestry resulting in the wiser use of the natural resources of Alabama.  The fundamental mission of the Mosley Environmental Award is to identify and reward “unsung heroes” who have voluntarily contributed significantly to the wise stewardship of Alabama’s natural resources.  To learn more about the Mosley Environmental Awards Program or to submit a nomination, please visit our website at http://www.aces.edu/natural-resources/mosley/.

Two nominees were selected and will be announced at a later date. Each will receive a $500 cash prize, a certificate of recognition and a framed limited edition painting.

Members of the multi-agency committee are pictured from left to right: Janaki Alavalapati, Dean, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University; Mark Smith, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Executive Secretary of the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Awards Program Steering and Selection Committee; Chuck Sykes, Director, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Gary Cole, Interim State Forester, Alabama Forestry Commission; Gary Lemme, Director, Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Lloyd Walker, Dean, College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences, Alabama A&M University; Paul Patterson, Dean, College of Agriculture, Auburn University; Joseph Tomasso, Director, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences, Auburn University; Ben Malone, Alabama State Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service; William Puckett, Executive Director, Alabama Soil & Water Conservation Committee; and Jim Armstrong, Extension Coordinator, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University.

 

Steury selected as Southeastern Conference Development Program fellow

Dr. Todd Steury

Dr. Todd Steury

Three Auburn University professors have been selected to participate in the 2016-17 Southeastern Conference Academic Leadership Development Program, or SEC ALDP. Auburn’s fellows include Allen Landers, professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, Kevin Moore, associate professor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction and Todd Steury, associate professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

The SEC ALDP seeks to identify, prepare and advance academic leaders for roles within SEC institutions and beyond. The program’s two components include a university-level development program designed by each individual institution and two, three-day workshops for all SEC ALDP participants.

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New faculty join the SFWS as part of Auburn’s Cluster Hire Initiative

 

 

peresinMaria Soledad Peresin joined the faculty as assistant professor in bioenergy and bioproducts as part of the hiring initiative to create the Institute for Scalable Energy Conversion Science and Technology. Peresin earned her bachelor’s degree in analytical chemistry in 2007 from Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina, and a doctorate in forest biomaterials from North Carolina State University in 2011. Her past experience includes the completion of a three-year post-doctoral position with the Academy of Finland where she acted as coordinator and project manager of a WoodWisdom EraNet+ Project of the European Commission from 2014-2016.

Peresin currently acts as member at large at the Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division of the American Chemical Society, and is also a member of the Junior Executive Committee of the European Polysaccharides Network of Excellence, Chair of the Finnish Section of the Royal Society of Chemistry and scientific coordinator of the Network of Argentinian Scientist in Finland.

With a significant library of publications to her credit, Peresin is considered to be an accomplished scientist in forest biomaterials. In addition to her research, she will co-lead a new Sustainable Biomaterials and Packaging undergraduate degree program that is being developed within the school.

 

 

 

 

Pan CPRDSusan (Shufen) Pan joins the SFWS as assistant professor of Earth systems modeling as part of Auburn’s Climate, Human and Earth System Sciences Strategic Cluster Hire. Pan has an interdisciplinary educational background with a Master’s degree in economics and a doctorate in ecology. Her primary research interest is in understanding and quantifying dynamics of coupled natural-human systems at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Pan’s research has covered a range of topics including studies of climate impacts, mitigation and adaptation, social-ecological system dynamics, land use and land cover changes. She acts as the SFWS Director of the GIS and Remote Sensing Laboratory and will be a key lead in the Geospatial and Environmental Informatics undergraduate degree program that is planned to launch in the fall 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Auburn University celebrates National Forest Products Week, Oct. 16 – 22

 

ForestryIconWorking Forests, Forest Products Vital to Alabama’s Economy, Rural Jobs, Environment

There’s no better time than National Forest Products Week to recognize our private working forests and forest products industry in Alabama as part of the American success story.  More than 94 percent of the 23.0 million acres of Alabama’s timberland is privately owned. These working forests improve the quality of our lives and are the cultural and economic foundation in rural communities throughout our state, providing wood for thousands of products that make our lives comfortable, secure and beautiful. They contribute to more than 42,000 jobs and a $14.8 billion boost to our state’s economy, plus they help clean our air and drinking water, and provide fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreational opportunities, and provide the products that can lessen the environmental burdens associated with the building sector.

But our forests don’t take care of themselves. These forests are planted and replanted to produce the raw materials for products we use every day—and, increasingly, as a source of energy. Because forest owners make long-term commitments to managing their foress sustainably and are careful each year to harvest only a small portion of the trees they grow to maintain an abundance of trees, the volume of growing trees in the U.S. has grown by 50 percent since the 1950s. Today, those trees help to offset 13 percent of total CO2 emissions annually. Specifically, in the state of Alabama, the annual growth typically exceeds harvest by 5% making Alabama competitive on a global scale.

More attention is being paid than ever before to how buildings impact the environment, including the choices of materials used in construction. Wood is the perfect green building material because it is renewable, stores carbon that reduces greenhouse gases, and is energy efficient.

Wood products continue to store the carbon absorbed by the trees during their growth cycle, keeping it out of the atmosphere indefinitely. Using wood in place of fossil fuel-intensive materials also “avoids” greenhouse gases that would have been emitted during manufacturing. Now, it is possible to quantify these benefits for wood buildings through third-party verified Environmental Product Declarations, which provide critical information including product composition, life-cycle environmental impacts, water and energy usage, and more.

Our forests are thriving in Alabama and around the country because the more wood we use, the more trees we grow. But the growth of our forests is contingent on strong markets for forest products—thousands of them from the framing of our homes, paper we use in communications, packaging for our goods, and tissue products for our hygiene, along with many others such as even the screens on our cell phones. With strong markets for wood products, forest owners re-invest the money from harvesting trees to planting more trees and keeping their forests healthy while protecting them from fire, insects and disease.

Alabama makes a valuable contribution to the nation-wide forest product industry. As a whole, these companies account for approximately 4 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, and manufacture over $200 billion in products annually. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $50 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 states.

A healthy and vital forestry economy is essential to Alabama and the nation. We should expect federal policy to support an industry that helps our economy and our environment.

More information about Alabama’s working forests and the forestry industry, is available within the Alabama Forestry Commission 2015 Forest Resource Report, found at http://forestry.alabama.gov/PDFs/alabamaForestResourceReport.pdf

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