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 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 honors faculty, staff and students during recent awards celebration


Forestry Club Outstanding Faculty Awardee, Dr. Tom Gallagher (center), shown with current Forestry Club members during recent SFWS Awards Celebration and Dinner held in Auburn.

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences recently honored its faculty, staff and students at its annual Spring Student Awards Celebration and Dinner. Over 150 students, their families, friends and donors joined the faculty and staff to congratulate the awardees.

Through the generosity of SFWS alumni and friends, nearly 20 awards were given to students totaling over $20,000. Student award recipients included:

  • Annual Academic Improvement Award presented by Dr. Jim Shepard to Logan Bailey
  • Weyerhaeuser Forest Economics Award presented by Weyerhaeuser Harvest and Transportation Manager for the Piedmont Region, Brad Murfee ’04, to Kyle Malone
  • Association of Consulting Foresters Senior Leadership Award presented by Alexander McCall ’93, executive vice president of Larson and McGowin LLC, to Andrew Burns
  • Alabama Division, Southeastern Society of American Foresters Leadership Travel Award presented by Chair Elect, Clint Mancil, to Zachary Slay
  • Alabama Forest Owners Association Award presented by AFOA President, Ben Black, to Zachary Slay and Andrew Metzeler
  • Alabama Division, Society of American Foresters Junior Leadership Award presented by Dr. Edward Loewenstein to Christopher Hays
  • William Allen Carey Memorial Award in Forest Pathology presented by Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Scott Enebak, to Christopher Turner
  • Armistead and Woody Family Military Service Award presented by Gordon Armistead ’74 and LTC Leonard “Chip” Woody ’74 to Alisia Diamond
  • F & W Forestry Services Incorporated Rising Senior Award presented by TR Clark to Kiel Sweatt and John Cooper
  • James R. Taylor Endowed Scholarship Award presented by Dr. Tom Gallagher to Reece Ousley
  • Summer Practicum Endowed Scholarship also presented by Dr. Tom Gallagher to Daniel Bowman
  • The Alabama Wildlife Federation Robert G. Wehle Non-Game Management Annual Award presented by Past President of the Alabama Wildlife Federation, Frank Boyd, to Kirsten Rice
  • The Alabama Wildlife Federation David K. Nelson Game Management Award also presented by Frank Boyd to Seth Rankins
  • Alabama Chapter of the Wildlife Society Student Leadership Award presented by Assistant Chief of Wildlife Research, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Amy Silvano, to Shannon Lambert
  • Westervelt Rising Senior Award in Wildlife presented by Westervelt Associate Biologist, Rachel Conley ’15, to Alisia Diamond
  • Research Open House Poster Awards presented by Association Dean of Research, Dr. Graeme Lockaby, to the following: 4th place winners, Anna Tucker, Ellary Tucker Williams, and Michael Ramirez; 3rd place winner, John Lancaster; 2nd place winner, Shelby Zikeli; 1st place winners, Jennifer Price Tack and John Draper
  • Student Government Association Outstanding Student Award also presented by Dr. Scott Enebak to Marisa Pierluisi
  • President’s Award presented by Dean Janaki Alavalapati to Chara Wood
  • Forestry Club Outstanding Member awarded to Zachary Slay
  • Forestry Club Outstanding Forestry Faculty awarded to Dr. Tom Gallagher
  • Wildlife Society Outstanding Student Member awarded to Seth Rankins
  • Wildlife Society Outstanding Wildlife Faculty awarded to Dr. Sarah Zohdy

A number of SFWS faculty and staff were recognized for their outstanding efforts in the classroom, laboratory, advising and outreach last year.

  • SGA Honors Ceremony Outstanding Faculty Award presented to Dr. Becky Barlow
  • Harry Murphy Faculty Award for Undergraduate Advising presented to Dr. Mark Smith
  • Harold E. Christen Award for Service to Teaching presented to Dr. Chris Lepczyk
  • Harry Murphy Faculty Research Award presented to Dr. Lisa Samuelson
  • Harry Murphy Faculty Outreach Award presented to Dr. Mark Smith
  • Harry Murphy Outstanding Staff Award presented to Paula Davis

SFWS Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Scott Enebak, echoed the sentiments of the faculty and staff, “We are extremely proud of our students’ hard work and commitment to their studies, as well as their leadership preparation for future careers in natural resources, wildlife and forestry.”

Many SFWS donors, alumni and friends attended the awards banquet to personally meet and present their awards to recipients, including Gordon Armistead ’74 and LTC Leonard “Chip” Woody ’74, who presented the Armistead and Woody Family Military Service Award. Also in attendance was Larson and McGowin LLC, Executive Vice President, Alexander McCall ‘93, who attended the banquet for the first time this year to present the Association of Consulting Foresters Senior Leadership Award.

Student awards are distributed annually and selected based on criteria outlined within the established funding agreements. Nominations for outstanding alumni are requested from the SFWS alumni and faculty throughout the year with final selection by the Alumni Awards Committee.

For more information about SFWS awards or to create a new award in the School, contact SFWS Office of Development at or via phone at 334-844-1983.

Photos of awardees can be found on Flikr website.



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 or contact the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Office of Student Services at

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.



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.



Natural resources management students tour marshes of coastal Louisiana


Seeing is believing; and for many students, it can also be life changing.

For Tarah Vick, a School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences’ Natural Resources Management student, a recent trip to a Louisiana coastal community, proved to be just that.

This January, Vick joined other student members of the Society of Natural Resources Club for a field trip to Cocodrie, Louisiana, to see firsthand the devastating effects of marsh loss and erosion along the Louisiana coast.

Oil and gas installations off the coast of Cocodrie, Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mexico

Cocodrie is located approximately 60 miles southwest of New Orleans deep within the Mississippi Deltaic Plain. This area, also known as MDP, is an extensive network of marshes, barrier islands, open water, and low upland ridges that have developed from the historic deposition of sediments from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers.

Because of its size (approximately 9,600 square miles), the MDP is a tremendous natural resource of international significance.  The marshes and waterways sustain habitat for a wide array of fish and aquatic organisms including shrimp, blue crabs and fin fish that are important for commercial and recreational fisheries, an approximately $2.4 billion seafood industry for Louisiana.

The Society for Natural Resources arranged the trip to Louisiana with the help of Richard Hall, an adjunct professor in the school, following a discussion about the oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico during the club’s meeting last November.

Inspired to learn more about the specific impacts of the oil and gas industry, in particular the implications of the significant coastal erosion and saltwater incursion along the Louisiana coast, the group began planning.

Working with Hall, the students organized and managed the details of planning the trip, including the travel, activities and lodging. For the visit, Hall suggested the Trade Winds Marina and Lodge as their basecamp. From there, they would tour the coastline by charter boat and helicopter; returning after the day’s journey to enjoy the local culture, with fresh caught seafood and music fitting of the Louisiana bayou.

For Hall, the students’ efforts were an inspiration and source of pride. “They represented themselves and Auburn so well,” stated Hall.  “I can say this with all sincerity….the students really do want to make a difference and their passion and enthusiasm was clear throughout the entire planning process and trip.”

During the first outing of the weekend, the group traveled to the barrier islands South of Cocodrie, through marsh areas and across the Terrabonne Bay, stopping along the way for some fishing and interpretation from Chris Anderson, associate professor of wetland ecology.

While on the water, the students were able to do some fishing along the route. A highlight for many was casting a line and catching a few of the abundant redfish and black drum found in the world-renowned fishery.

“Because of its tremendous value as a fishery, the MDP is critical to the economy and the culture of Southern Louisiana,” stated Anderson. “The region also provides an important physical buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and large urban centers like New Orleans during hurricanes and tropical storms.”

The coastal wetlands have been shown to reduce the energy of waves and associated damages further inland. The marshes also represent critical habitat for millions of over-wintering migratory birds.

Unfortunately, the marshlands of coastal Louisiana are quickly disappearing. Annual loss of these wetlands has averaged about 30 square miles per year. Substantial change to the MDP caused by humans has played a large role in these losses. Channelization and leveeing of the Mississippi River has resulted in less sediment reaching the coastal marshes; without which it has been found, they will gradually subside and disappear. This process has been exacerbated by rising sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico.

The aerial view of the landscape was a glaring illustration for the students of the habitat loss and devastation wrought by the saltwater intrusion and erosion from years of human activity.

More direct impacts have been caused by the frequent channels and cuts excavated into marshes and for access and oil and gas exploration.  In addition to excavating marsh, these channels change water circulation and salinity patterns and further weaken the remaining marsh communities already under stress.

Barrier islands that separate these marshes from the Gulf of Mexico – and all of the wave energy from the open gulf waters – are important buffers that preserve the marshes and protect the coast during storms. However, these are eroding and disappearing at an alarming rate. As these disappear, future marsh loss will likely accelerate. This has been evident most dramatically after recent hurricanes have passed through the region.

A large contingency of state, federal, private, and non-governmental entities are working to increase sediment input to the MDP and restore other natural processes to improve its long-term resilience.

Given our current trajectory, the students may find themselves dealing with these problems in their own careers. “There are so many challenges facing coastal areas throughout the world. Natural resource professionals will play an important role in managing these issues and developing strategies to slow the impacts to coastal areas and the communities dependent on them.” noted Anderson.

“Being able to see the marshland from this perspective truly gave us an appreciation of the damage that had been done over the years,” said Cayde Thomas, natural resources student. “As someone who is interested in wetland restoration, I found the trip to be quite relevant to the field and career I want to pursue.”

While on the boat tour, the students took the opportunity to discuss with the fishing guides how the changes to the MDP had influenced their own lives and communities. Their testimonies gave the students a better understanding of the consequences of environmental impacts to the area’s economy and culture.

Era staff and pilots toured their operations with the students and shared details of the company’s business and transport operations as well as their search and rescue operations and emerging unmanned aerial systems division.

For natural resources student, Dallas Gentry, the trip was a sobering look at the economic and cultural effects of these environmental impacts. “The conversations we had with people who actually depend on the coast to make a living allowed us to see the myriad of issues that are tied into natural resource management decisions,” said Gentry.

As part of their visit, the students were able to view the Gulf of Mexico from the air as well. Up the road from Cocodrie, Houma is the second busiest airport in Louisiana due to the helicopter transport of employees to offshore oil and gas operations. Era Helicopters is a primary carrier at the airport, which services two major clients; a major oil and gas company and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which provides oversight for offshore oil and gas operations.

After an airport tour with Era’s staff, the group went to a safety briefing and then embarked on a helicopter flight during which they toured the same barrier islands they had visited via boat, as well as oil and gas installations in the open water beyond the barrier islands. The aerial view of the extensive wetlands, marshes, and other aquatic ecosystems was valuable for demonstrating the effects of human activity.

“Being able to see the coastal landscape from a helicopter was amazing and really puts into perspective the amount of impact humans can have on the environment,” said club president, Dana Higgins. “Now more than ever, it seems important to manage our natural resources more sustainably.”

The group toured the oil and gas operations beyond the barrier islands and the extensive wetlands, marshes and other aquatic ecosystems.

The take away from the trip is valuable not only for the students, but the faculty who will leverage this opportunity within the classroom, as they go deeper into the complex issues facing our society to effectively balance the use of natural resources with the need to protect our environment.

“This experience will significantly enhance my capacity to work with students in the fields of Environmental Law and Natural Resource Finance and Investment,” stated Hall. “I would also expect that the trip also supported Dr. Anderson’s research initiatives and offered new perspectives to help with student instruction.”

“In a text book or lab, we can teach students the mechanics of water quality, erosion, or salt water intrusion; but experiencing it for themselves, where the damage can be seen so vividly, provides a tangible perspective of the scale and magnitude of the impact that is difficult to convey in the classroom,” stated Anderson. “We are fortunate to have instructors at SFWS such as Richard Hall that take such an interest in our students to arrange a fantastic trip such as this.”




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 or via Facebook at

Learn more about the Auburn University Deer Lab at




2nd annual Career Fair a success for students and employers



The fall 2016 School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Career Fair, held on Nov. 30, hosted nearly 50 employers from 20 U.S.-based businesses and organizations. During the day long career fair, SFWS current and prospective students took the opportunity to network with company reps and participate in interviews with several groups. Also participating in the career fair were middle and high school students from Munford, Alabama, who came to learn about forestry, wildlife and natural resources management careers.







Thank you to all who made the day a success for our students, including:

Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
Alabama Forestry Commission
ArborMetrics Solutions
Bartlett Tree Experts
Choctaw Land & Timber
IndusTREE Timber
International Paper
Larson & McGowin, LLC
Louisiana-Pacific Corporation
Regions Bank
The Westervelt Company
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Bloomington, MN)
U.S. Forest Service
West Fraser



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