New Forest Service/NCSU Partnership Provides Research Experience to Undergraduates

U.S. Forest Service and North Carolina State University reach students from historically black colleges and universities

Students in summer Forest Water Stress and Climate Change Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program conducted fieldwork in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. Photo courtesy of NCSU.
Students in summer Forest Water Stress and Climate Change Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program conducted fieldwork in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. Photo courtesy of NCSU.

A new partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources brings undergraduate students from historically black colleges and universities together for a summer research and mentoring program.

In summer 2015, three students participated in the program. “This internship helped me broaden my possibilities for the future,” said Rayquan, one of the participants. “Networking was a major plus for me as well.” The students participated in hands-on research in the University’s Tree Physiology and Ecosystem Science Lab and worked closely with professors as well as Forest Service scientists.

The 10-week program introduced students to forestry research through monitoring 11 forest ecosystem stress stations, called Remote Assessment of Forest Ecosystem Stress (RAFES). The monitoring network provides fine-scale, real-time data, and is part of a U.S. Forest Service effort to provide land managers information for monitoring and responding to forest stress. During their time on the University campus, students participated in developing network sensors and in modeling and analyzing network measurements such as air and soil temperatures, precipitation, relative humidity, and other environmental variables. Students also participated in field visits and deployed probes in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina.

The program was initiated by James Vose and David Wear, who are both project leaders at the Southern Research Station (SRS) Center for Integrated Forest Science. The scientists partnered with North Carolina State University (NCSU), whose Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources sponsored the program. Stacy Nelson, associate professor with the NCSU Center for Geospatial Analytics and other departments, arranged the students’ visits and oversaw their stays. SRS provided stipends of $450 per week to each student, and also funded their housing and travel.

“We value our partnership with NC State,” says Vose. “We saw this as a fantastic opportunity to build on a collaborative project and let students participate in some interesting and important science.” Such programs also strengthen partnerships between the Forest Service and other research organizations, while potentially increasing diversity within the Forest Service.

For more information, email James Vose at jvose@fs.fed.us.

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