Monday, December 8, 2014

Fall 2014 Wrap-Up

The fall semester is rapidly coming to an end.  Finals Week is in high gear, and the campus is already noticeably quieter, as students depart for their winter break.

This semester, I taught Fire Ecology and Management to a class of 35 junior and senior students, and Environmental Science as a Social Pursuit to around the same number of freshman and sophomores.  Both classes were exciting opportunities to interact with students and learn via student interactions and refreshing my lectures and presentations.

Last week, Anna Meyer successfully defended her thesis, Effects of Fire on Two Ant Species in Central Texas.  While she won't officially graduate until May 2014, this marks a huge accomplishment for her, and I am quite pleased with her work to date.  The results of her work will be featured on tomorrow's radio broadcast of West Texas AgLife.

Additionally, I attended the Society for Range Management -Texas Section meetings in Alpine, Texas and the Texas Prescribed Burn Board meeting in Austin, Texas.  I also helped organize a symposium for the national Entomological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon on how to retain women in entomology.  All in all, I feel like its been a productive semester.

Finally, several of the students that I have gotten to know over the last few years at Texas Tech are poised to graduate this December.  I have had the privilege of teaching and mentoring several of these students, and send a heartfelt congratulations to them as they embark on their journey as stewards of natural resources.  In particular, congratulations to my academic advisees Bianca Rendon and Cleaburn Nix, former Student Association for Fire Ecology president Heather Williams, and my graduate student Rachel Granberg (MS).

I wish all of you a happy holiday season and safe travels during this busy time of year!  

Selected December 2014 Texas Tech NRM Graduates:

Cleaburn Nix is completing his B.S. in Natural Resources Management with an emphasis in Wildlife Biology.  He is easily one of the most reliable and trustworthy students I have mentored and excels at hands-on projects.  Cleaburn is a certified Type II Wildland Firefighter, and he is interested in pursuing a career with a wildlife management agency or organization.

Cleaburn Nix gives the guns-up during a prescribed burn in April 2013
Bianca Rendon is completing her B.S. in Natural Resources Management with an emphasis in Wildlife Biology.  She has been active in undergraduate research and spent two summers working as an undergraduate researcher on Barro Colorado Island, Panama with Dr. Ximena Bernal (formerly, TTU, currently Purdue Biology).  Bianca is interested in pursuing an MS in mosquito and/or vector ecology.

Bianca Rendon during a Forest and Rangeland Insect Diversity class photo in Junction, TX; May 2013

Heather Williams is completing her B.S. in Natural Resources Management with an emphasis in Conservation Science.  Heather's enthusiasm is contagious.  Additionally, she is one of the most well-rounded students I have met, having participated in a fisheries internship with Texas Parks and Wildlife, certified as a Type II Wildland Firefighter, served as the TTU Student Association for Fire Ecology club president, and been an active member of the Student Conservation Biology Club.  Upon graduation, she is interested in continuing to expand and refine her skills via internships and eventually an MS program in fisheries.

Heather Williams at AgFest 203

Rachel Granberg completes her M.S. in Natural Resources Management in my laboratory this December.  She defended her thesis in September.  Rachel has written a guest blog that outlines her experiences at TTU and plans for the future.  Rachel has been a wonderful student to advise.  She is remarkably tenacious, very bright, and an incredible self-starter and motivator.  In addition, she is an incredibly interesting and fun person!  I have no doubts that she will be a wonderful asset to her future employers and wish her all the best.

Rachel Granberg on a prescribed burn, August 2013

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rachel Granberg bids the Fire Ecology Lab farewell

Rachel completed her M.S. this semester and is graduating in December 2014.  She has been a productive, enthusiastic, and wonderful student to advise.  On behalf of the entire lab, I wish her the very best in future endeavors!  Below, she summarizes her experiences this semester and her future plans.
This semester has been extremely busy for me.  I ended my second field season in early August and defended my thesis at the end of September.  After defending, I took a short study abroad course in tropical ecology and conducted vegetation surveys in the British Virgin Islands.  I just returned from a Thanksgiving camping trip to Big Bend National Park and am working on submitting manuscripts for publication.  I am also just finishing up filming for a short documentary on which I am collaborating with Wild Lens, Inc. 

In roughly two weeks, I will be graduating from Texas Tech University with my Master’s in Natural Resources Management.  It stuns me how quickly time has passed since I arrived here.  My experiences at Tech have jettisoned me to a new level of maturity and professionalism.  I am looking forward to re-entering the conservation world with a new suite of skills and ideas.  My long-term goal is to be a research ecologist with USGS.  I want to conduct research to understand impacts of fire in the western US and how climate change and land use change may affect these. 

My next step is to join a prescribed fire crew with The Nature Conservancy in Alabama.  I will primarily be based out of Mobile, but our crew will chase good fire weather around the state.  We will be collaborating with USFS, private land owners, and timber industry to administer fire in habitats where it historically occurred.  Working in prescribed fire will give me a greater understanding of fire behavior and will provide valuable networking opportunities.  After finishing up in Alabama, I plan on working a handcrew position in wildland fire suppression in my home state of Washington.

British Virgin Islands (C) Jess East 2014
I have been nothing but blessed in my time in Lubbock.  I was adopted by a wonderful family, the Elliotts, who have let me live in their home and ride their horses like I was one of their own.  I also have been blessed by an incredibly supportive family back home.  I know y’all are tired of me constantly moving because of work (and my wanderlust), but I appreciate that you have supported my education and goals.  I have also made some pretty fantastic friends here in Lubbock.  The students in the Department of Natural Resources Management are incredible people.  I have never met so many good-hearted, fun-loving people in one place.  I would also like to thank my co-advisors, Dr. Verble and Dr. Perry, for their support through graduate school.  Dr. Verble has helped me see there is room for women in fire ecology, we just have to be brave enough to stake a claim.  This has been a whirlwind trip for me and I am looking forward to the next adventure.