The U.S. Forest Service and the University of Texas at San Antonio, a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, recently established a framework for cooperation by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. The partnership offers graduate and undergraduate students a chance to work with Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists.
“This partnership is win-win for the University and for us,” says Cathryn Greenberg, project leader at Bent Creek Experimental Forest, and research advisor. Jennifer Knoepp, research soil scientist at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory is also a research advisor, and she agrees. “This collaboration is beneficial to the Forest Service, because it introduces students to Forest Service research, giving them a positive view of a future career path.” Student projects are funded by the SRS.
At Coweeta, Knoepp advised graduate student Jewell Cozort, who studied how lime effects leaf litter decomposition in riparian forests that have been impacted by acidic deposition. Katherine Elliot, a researcher at Coweeta, advised Anna Boeck, who studied how the hydrologic changes predicted by climate change models could affect soil seed banks of native and exotic invasive plants in riparian zones.
Two graduate and three undergraduate students worked with Greenberg and other researchers at Bent Creek to see how wildlife communities respond to prescribed fire and other forest management practices. Chad Sundol studied how amphibians and reptiles respond to prescribed burns and other silvicultural treatments. Sundol’s study is part of a larger, multidisciplinary Regional Oak Study which looks at how silvicultural practices affect hardwood regeneration and herbaceous plant diversity, as well as herpetofauna, bats, small mammals, and breeding birds. Tyler Seiboldt studied how the season of prescribed burning affects herpetofauna and small mammals.
“These projects provide students with hands on experience in wildlife and forestry research,” says Greenberg. “The studies also address important research questions that support science-based forest management, while introducing students to Forest Service research.”