Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to School 2014!

Its the first official week of classes at Texas Tech this week!  Undergraduate students have returned from internships and summer vacations.  Graduate students have returned from field sites.  Everything generally feels back to normal.

It has been an exciting summer for our lab!

Tabea Malinowski completed her MS thesis on thermal profiles and predators of Texas horned lizards and graduated at the beginning of August.  Congratulations, Tabea!  For now, Tabea has returned home to Germany, but she is pursuing Ph.D. programs to continue her education.

Tabea looking excited next to her PowerPoint presentation during her defense

Clara Frasconi-Wendt also successfully defended her MS thesis on thermal physiology and behavior in fire ants and harvester ants.  Though she's all finished up, she won't officially graduate until December.  Clara has also returned to Germany to finish the remaining portion of her Arid Lands Studies program.  I can't believe I didn't get a photo of Clara at her defense!  She did such a great job!

Bradley Barker, former prescribed burning student, took a position on a burn crew with The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas this fall.  We wish him all the best as he starts his career as a wildland firefighter!

At the end of July, the Texas Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Unit celebrated its 25th year in Lubbock with a poster session and meeting.  This was a great opportunity for NRM students to showcase their work and meet successful professionals from Texas Parks and Wildlife, the United States Geological Survey, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies across the state.  Three students from our lab presented their work-- Rachel Granberg, Nick Goforth, and Clara Frasconi-Wendt.

Rachel Granberg discusses her poster with Dr. Richard Stevens

Clara Frasconi-Wendt's poster 

Nick Goforth's poster

In addition, I have been fortunate enough to have some time to see the awesome research other graduate students and land managers have been doing in Texas.  Here's a photo of Tabea at Lubbock Lake Landmark.  We spent a few hours looking at sites there were burned this year and cruising for lizards.  Matt McEwen was gracious  enough to be our host.

Tabea holding a Texas horned lizard at Lubbock Lake Landmark

Kristen Linner, an M.S. student in Dr. Clint Boal's lab let me and Seth Pearson tag along on a juvenile kestrel banding trip at Reese Air Force Base.  Kristen's thesis work centers on how wind energy and land use changes influence kestrel and other avian populations.

Juvenile male and female kestrels at Reese Air Force Base (Photo credit:  Kristen Linner)

Theo Sumnicht, a doctoral candidate from the University of Utah, invited me along for some ant collecting in central Texas.  We spent the day in Brown County at the Muse Wildlife Management Area.  After he processed and identified specimens (the real legwork of any ant collecting trip), we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our trip had produced several new county records.  Theo's travels elsewhere in the state also yielded several new collection records.

Theo Sumnicht at the Muse Wildlife Management Area during a collecting trip


This semester, I'm teaching Fire Ecology and Management and Environmental Science as a Social Pursuit.  Rachel is working toward a December graduation, and Anna and Nick are finishing data analysis in preparation for May 2015 graduation dates.  Vanessa Torres is back working as an Undergraduate Research Fellow in the laboratory, and Britt Smith has his hands full with lots of insect samples that he collected at Texas ranches during his summer field season.

Here's looking forward to an exciting Fall 2014 semester!