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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Weaver Lecture Series to feature international scientists Orlando Rojas and David Fowler

 

Established in 1996 through an endowment provided by Earl H. and Sandra H. Weaver, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences’ Weaver Lecture Series will feature two internationally renowned scientists this spring, March 30 and April 11.

The first lecture of the two-part series offered this year, will be given by Orlando Rojas, Professor of Biobased Colloids and Materials at Aalto University, Finland.

Professor Rojas’ lecture, titled “Nanocelluloses and Multi-phase Systems,” will discuss the Finnish vision of the future bio-economy and the importance of forests as a resource for lignocellulose, the biomass of woody plants, as the ideal precursor for material design.

Professor Orlando J. Rojas

Previous to Rojas current faculty position at Aalto University, Finland, he was Professor in the departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Forest Biomaterials of North Carolina State University.

Earlier in his career he was a senior scientist appointed by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in the Royal Institute of Technology, a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Surface Chemistry, Sweden and research assistant at Auburn University.

Rojas’ work is centered on the utilization of lignocellulosic materials in novel, high performance applications and the interfacial and the adsorption behaviors of surfactants and biopolymers at solid/liquid interfaces.

Among his many honors and awards, Rojas was appointed as Finland Distinguish Professor (2009-2014) and was elected with the distinction of Fellow of the American Chemical Society (2013) for his scientific and professional contributions.

Most recently, Rojas was the recipient of the 2015 Nanotechnology Division Technical Award and IMERYS Prize for outstanding contributions that have advanced the industry’s technology. He received the Fibrenamics Award (University of Minho, Portugal, 2016) in recognition for his scientific work and impact in the field of advanced materials from lignocellulose.

The second lecture of the two-part series offered this year will feature David Fowler, Professor at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Fowler’s talk, “Impacts of Human Activities on the Global Nitrogen Cycle Through the 21st Century,” will discuss the efficacy of the Earth’s ecosystems, atmosphere and oceans to globally cycle increased fixed nitrogen from human activity.

Professor David Fowler

Professor Fowler is an environmental physicist with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology based in Edinburgh. He trained in Environmental Physics at the University of Nottingham, obtaining a PhD in 1976 from research on the dry deposition of sulfur dioxide by micrometeorological methods.

His research focuses on the surface – atmosphere exchange processes of trace gases and particulate matter and has been applied to ozone, acid deposition, the global biogeochemical cycle of nitrogen, emissions of greenhouse gases, atmospheric aerosols and effects of pollutants on vegetation.

Fowler’s work has been widely applied in the development of effects-based pollution control strategies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.

He was awarded an Honorary Professorship at the University of Nottingham in 1991, became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1999, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2002. In 2005, he was awarded a CBE or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his research of atmospheric pollution.

The objective of the Weaver Lecture Series is to bring experts in various research areas relevant to forestry and wildlife sciences to the Auburn University campus to enhance the School’s academic programs through public lectures and interaction with faculty and students.

Lectures are open to the public and will take place at the Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Building at Auburn University. A reception will be held prior to each lecture. For details about the Weaver Lecture Series and to review research abstracts, visit the website: http://wp.auburn.edu/sfws/weaver/.

 

 

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.”

 

 

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.”

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