Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Finals are graded.  Grades are submitted.  Students are heading home.

Have a safe a joyous holiday season!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fall 2016

I haven't updated the lab blog since February.  Geez.

So what have we been up to since then?

We have added a new lab member-- Heather Williams joined the lab as an M.S. student.  Heather was previously working in Dr. Tim Grabowski's fisheries laboratory; however, after he relocated to Hawaii (aloha, Tim!), we took her in.  Heather's project examines the effects of disturbance on Guadalupe bass ecology in central Texas.  She's doing some really neat work with prey items (bugs!), too, so we are excited to adopt her.

Britt has been wrapping up data collection for his dissertation.  He also recently successfully completed his oral and written comprehensive exams, and is now a Ph.D. candidate.  Go Britt!

Jonathan and Neil have been working on getting their projects going at the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  Both are asking interesting questions about the ecology of insects and fire at the site, and I am excited to see their data.

Last spring, I taught NRM 3323-- Prescribed Burning and my students had lots of opportunities to burn with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  I am also so extremely grateful for these collaborations, as they provide safe real-world environments in which students can learn and refine skills.

We also sent a crew to burn with Florida State Parks crews in May 2016.  I can't thank Mike Melnechuk and his team enough for the opportunity.  The students LOVED the chance to burn in new ecosystems, see new fire behavior, and spend some time seeing the diversity of Florida habitats.

(C) Verble Fire Ecology Lab 2016.

This fall, I am teaching NRM 4304-- Fire Ecology and Management and NRM 1300-- Environmental Science as a Social Pursuit.  NRM 1300 recruits students outside our department and serves our freshman students.  I am loving the opportunity to get to know our incoming student population and get them introduced to the social issues that surround environmental management.

We're looking forward to a productive and fun semester!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Meet Neil!

The following is a guest blog by Neil Estes, an M.S. student in the Verble Fire Ecology Lab.

Hello, my name is Neil Estes and I am a graduate student in Dr. Verble’s lab. I have a B.S. in Range Science from Texas Tech which I completed in 2015. This is my second undergraduate degree. My first was in design communication completed in 2001. After finishing that first degree I worked in advertising in the Dallas area for 7 years. During those years I became hooked on training dogs to work livestock. 

After so many years in Dallas it all started to come together. By this time Advertising had run its course. I was looking for a big change. I had been in contact with a rancher in Oregon for some time and decided to take my love of dog training and level of livestock experience to the next level. I accepted a position as a shepherd and my dog and I headed northwest. I worked for a year in the northeastern part of Oregon.  I consider this dramatic change in my life the best decision I ever made. I even met my wife there. This experience-- more than any other-- led me to natural resource management, and I haven’t looked back since.  I believe there is no substitute for life experience. 

My research project focuses on thistle abundance and distribution as well as thistle-insect communities in the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.  I have always loved the higher elevations in the mountains and have spent a lot of time bagging peaks in Colorado. This opportunity to work in the high country in New Mexico is simply amazing and I can’t wait for my first field season!

Contact Neil for more information about his work at TTU.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Meet Jonathan!

First, let me introduce myself.  I'm Jonathan Knudsen, one of Dr. Verble's new graduate students in the Fire Ecology Lab at Texas Tech.  I hail from the great state of Nebraska, Go Big Red!, where I completed my B.S. in Biology, focusing on ecology and zoology, from Doane University (formerly Doane College).  After graduation I took a summer field technician position with the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, where I conducted wetland assessments and frog call surveys.  I moved to east Tennessee at the end of the summer and promptly found work in a moonshine distillery!  During the next three years I was fortunate to work in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains and take in all that they offered.  I picked up fly fishing and often spent my free time seeking out remote stretches of stream in search of brook trout.  During the spring of 2013, I took a three month internship at the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, helping to implement their sea turtle nest monitoring program.  Three months on a tropical island in the South China Sea with crystal clear blue water and coral reef just off the beach, let me tell you, it was just as bad as it sounds.  I joined the lab in early October, after a whirl-wind of a month finishing a field technician position in south-central Tennessee, quickly packing, and finding a place to live.  I have settled into Lubbock, and have been using my time here to get a jump start on my project before classes begin. 

Clear skies and clear waters

My research project focuses on evaluating the impact of wildfire on ant communities in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, another picturesque field site.  My research interests center around the effects of habitat management and restoration on arthropod and amphibian communities.  Specifically the use of fire in managing and restoring habitats, and the impact of recreational use on arthropod and amphibian communities.  Currently, along with two terrific undergraduates, Zac and Maria, I am sorting through the back catalog of samples from Valles Caldera.  Samples are collected from pitfall traps, a container buried flush with the ground and partially filled with preservative, and sorted by morphospecies.  Once sorted, a representative from each morphospecies is pinned and given a unique code for identifying which pitfall trap it was from and the dates the trap was left open.  After pinning, the specimens are identified to species, when possible, and that data is recorded for analysis.