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Burning in the Coastal Plain- Briana Hutcherson

One of my favorite and most engaging classes at Warnell only lasted a week. This past spring break I took the Prescribed Fire in the Forest Ecosystem course at the Jones center also known as Ichauway. Through this course I learned about the ecology of the coastal plain, the importance of the longleaf pine ecosystem in Georgia, the basics of prescribed burning and how to use prescribed burns as a management tool for forest ecosystems. After learning the basics we were given the opportunity to act as burn bosses by planning and conducting three burns using drip torches. We also had the opportunity to observe professional foresters from the Georgia Forestry Commission conduct a prescribed burn using ATVs outfitted with drip torches and one mounted with the “Green Dragon”, a device that shoots out ignition balls that would combust and ignite the forest. Overall, this course was an amazing experience for me. Learning in the classroom can be beneficial, but nothing beats getting hands on experience with professionals. It is absolutely important to reintroduce fire back into our ecosystem and I recommend this course to anyone needing to fulfill a habitat requirement or anyone who just wants to learn something new.

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A Sneak Peak into Warnell’s Forestry Field Camp- by Hudson Jordan

In Warnell’s Forestry program, each student must attend what is called our “Forestry Field Camp” the summer after joining the professional program. Field Camp is essentially a 3 week boot camp for aspiring foresters. Each week focuses on a different component of forestry: operations, mensuration, and silviculture.

In my experience, I have found that it can be difficult to ask questions about Field Camp in fear of looking like you have no idea what you are doing (if this is how you feel, I can assure you that you are not alone). My intention of this blog post is to shed some light on what Forestry Field Camp is and what any new forestry student can expect to experience.

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Week 1: Operations Week

In my opinion, operations week is the most eye opening experience a forestry student can get to what the private forestry industry is and the careers that come with it. The week is spent with many hours in a Warnell van travelling across Georgia to lumber mills, pulp mills, bioenergy plants, harvesting operations, and other post-harvest operations. This week you will learn what it means to be in the private forestry industry, and just as important, you will begin to develop deep-rooted relationships with your forestry peers.

Week 2: Mensuration Week

By far the most physically and mentally challenging week of Field Camp. You will spend the majority of the day in the hot summer sun cruising timber and collecting data on the stand. In the evening and into the night, you will be hard at work crunching numbers to learn representative information about the stand. While this is the most difficult week, I think that it is also the most exciting and rewarding.

Week 3: Silviculture Week

In the last week of Field Camp, you will learn about the 3 phases of silviculture: regeneration, tending, and harvest. You will travel around the Southeast to visit different sites where various silvicultural prescriptions are being applied. Eventually, you will make it to the beautiful Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, where you will learn about forest management and the history of forestry in the United States.

While Forestry Field Camp is grueling and difficult, it is an incredible experience in which young forestry students develop life long relationships with one another and get a preview of what its like to be a professional in the forestry world. It has been one of my favorite experiences being at UGA, and I know that my peers feel the same way. Take advantage of every second of Forestry Field Camp… it will be the quickest 3 weeks of your life!

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Not your Average Spring Break- by Andrew Rhonemus

andrew blog 3Many college students tend to want to spend their spring breaks going to the beach and partying or at the very minimum going home to visit family and not think about school work for a few days. Last year though I broke the norm by spending my spring break in a college class. Not any normal class though, at Warnell they offer spring break prescribed fire courses. In this class I got to earn my red card, which certifies me as a wild land firefighter type II, as well as spend the entire week in an in depth hands on fire course. During this course we talked about the benefits of prescribed fire in our ecosystems. As well as see it first hand in practice at the Savannah River site where UGA does experiments to get a better understanding of fire’s role in our forests and how to better manage them for greater species diversity. We walked through different forest during the week looking at the after effects of fire on the forest, which when done properly is a beautiful thing. You could see how the fire adapted species were thriving in forests that have been burned on 2-3 year cycles for years now. The best part of the course was that we got to actually assist professional fire fighters in the process of prescribed burns. We got to use drip torches, fire rakes, shovels, and even huge fire trucks built for wildfires!

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Probably one of my favorite experiences from the week was getting to set a stand of trees on fire that hadn’t been burned for 10-12 years and was thick with underbrush and needed a burn badly. It was a mess but due to the perfect conditions of the weather that day we got to burn it. Watching the stand go from a choked up mess of vines and hardwood sprouts up under a bunch of pines, to being a cleared out neat pine stand in a matter of hours was awesome. The professors were also a great help in explaining how the ecosystem such as long leaf pine and wire grass were all fire dependent and that without fire these species would be out competed Not only that but the fire which was once a norm in Georgia and the coastal plain ecosystem was also restoring critical habitat for endangered species such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and Gopher Tortoise.  The best part was all of this fun hands on experience counted as credit towards our degree similar to many Warnell classes. Not only that but it gave us hands on experience for future jobs by getting us firefighter type II certified. It was honestly one of my favorite breaks I’ve ever had and definitely my favorite class at Warnell.

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Wildlife Society takes on Conclave – by Jack Buban

Every spring the Warnell Chapter of the Wildlife Society competes in the Southeastern Student Conclave Competition. Schools from all over the southeast from as far as Arkansas and Kentucky compete, and UGA is consistently one of the highest finishers. This competition brings in the brightest students and faculty from all over the southeast in a competitive and fun environment. This year it was hosted by ABAC in Tifton, GA and I was fortunate enough to attend with 19 other students lead by a member of our great Warnell faculty in Dr. Castleberry.

jack blog 2With an opening night dinner concluding in a competition of duck and animal calls the festivities were under way.  The next morning the team competition began with students running from station to station and having 5 minutes to solve a number of questions ranging in topic from Field Measurements, to species identification, to prescribed burning equipment and methods. The course emphasized teamwork and gave us a chance to showcase the wide range of knowledge obtained from our coursework and from outside the classroom.  In total the course was just under two miles and Warnell placed first. The night concluded with a low country boil graciously hosted by ABAC that allowed students to interact with competitors from other schools and enjoy the cool Georgia spring air. As the sun set on Friday night and team competition, attention turned to the Quiz Bowl portion that Warnell had advanced through until Saturday morning.

The Warnell Wildlife Quiz Bowl team made up of Seth Cook, Ben Williams, Mischa Schultz and Kevin Hutcheson moved through to the finals of the double elimination tournament without any losses where they faced off against University of Tennessee-Martin. Quickly answering questions ranging from birds, to insects, to conservation policy, the knocked off UTM and went home with the trophy. Compiling points from Quiz Bowl, the team competition and a host of individual events including archery and orienteering, Warnell ended out finishing first and bringing home the Conclave title!

jack blog 1Conclave always serves as an amazing opportunity for students to be able to take what they learn in the classroom and put it to use in a fun and unique setting. It serves as a great time to build friendships with fellow students, as I know I became closer with everyone on the trip. It is always a highlight of the spring semester and something that everyone has marked on their calendars.


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Not Bad for Government Work – Bethany McDaniel

The Philippines is at the apex of the Coral Triangle – a bio-geographic space of great biological and economic importance. The coastal and marine resources of the Philippines provide various ecosystem services – benefiting more than 50% of the total population living along coastal zones for food and income generation. The Philippines’ natural resources are under heavy threats from both human-led activities and natural phenomena (like climate change). Destructive practices, over-exploitation, pollution and wastes have resulted to loss of coastal and marine ecosystems and decline in fish production. It is estimated that only less than 1% of the total coral reef of the country is in excellent condition. The alarming population growth, which is now estimated at around 100 million, has amplified these threatsblog1

I found these problems being faced in the Pacific, specifically in the Philippines, are such a tragedy considering the great abundance of natural resources they have there. For this reason, I decided to apply for a Peace Corps position in the Philippines last September. After a five month application and interview process I was offered a position as a The Coastal Resource Management volunteer for 2019 – 2021. The Coastal Resource Management (CRM) program of Peace Corps supports the initiatives of the national and local governments through its three components: (1) skills and knowledge building, (2) ecosystem protection and management and (3) sustainable fisheries. My service will revolve around these components aimed at improving the capacity of individuals and/or organizations I work with at my site. As a CRM Volunteer, my main assignment will be to work with local governments. The municipal or city government has important facilitation roles in the coastal management process because of their legal mandate and devolved functions to manage resources within their jurisdiction. In support of the integrated coastal management framework of the national government, the Coastal Resource Management Framework of U.S. Peace Corps Philippines sets ambitious targets in environmental awareness, ecological profiling, protected area management and empowerment of community-based organizations.

I am so excited for this opportunity to share all the knowledge I have acquired here at Warnell and to represent UGA and the United States in a positive light on a global scale! I am set to leave July 4th, 2019 and when I come back, I hope to either get a job at the EPA or go back to school and get my masters.

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Empowerment- It all Started with a Modern-Day Dinosaur- by Catlyn Chapman

This past summer of 2018, I had the opportunity of starting a senior thesis project with UGA’s Sturgeon lab. I am a fisheries major and knew if I wanted to go to graduate school that doing a thesis project would be a good idea. If you are just now into Warnell, you might be wondering what a thesis even is. You will find out shortly trust me, but keep reading to see why it can be such an amazing experience!

The project started in Darien, GA where I learned how to collect data on an amazing fish called the Atlantic Sturgeon. These fish can be as small as your hand or even bigger than me! We caught all of our fish using nets, tagged each fish, measured them, and then released them. During our sampling I also learned how to properly maneuver a boat down a boat ramp (it’s pretty challenging). I was only there for a week, but I feel like I advanced as a professional in so many ways. The entire fall semester, we started analyzing data from many summers of using these same techniques mentioned. If you haven’t had a chance to get to know R, it seems like a foreign language, but it gets better I promise. It will be so useful when you try to piece together all of the data you collect.

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This semester I had the honor of attending the Georgia Annual AFS Conference where I got to present part of this thesis project. I was super nervous, but the entire Sturgeon lab made me feel so confident. Once I presented, I felt like I could accomplish anything since it was so scary to speak in front of such a mature audience. At the end of the conference, they gave out awards. I was so surprised when I found out that I won the best presentation award and when I received the Georgia AFS Scholarship for 2019. I was able to meet so many professionals and people from other schools, and I learned so much from the other talks that I heard. If you want to get more involved in Warnell, definitely attend a conference! I promise you won’t regret it.

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Today, this experience is still continuing as I am finishing writing my thesis. The people I have been surrounded by throughout this process have given me the confidence to not be scared to admit that I don’t always know what I’m doing. They’ve accepted my mistakes and taught me how to be better. I have never felt so empowered as a woman in science as I have while being a part of Warnell and being supported by the woman in this picture. We have been able to voice our opinions, live our dreams, and support each other as we all embark on a journey of informing the world around us how important conservation is. I am so proud to call these people pictured some of my greatest friends. I am so grateful for the constant support and empowerment Warnell has given me.


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A Warnellian’s Guide to Athens- by Laura Banister

Like many students in Warnell (or Warnellians—as we are affectionately called), I grew up in a small rural town in Georgia. Chickamauga, Georgia, is located in the top left corner of the state and is smooshed right in-between the Tennessee and Alabama borders. My house was isolated from our neighbors on twelve acres of land with trees lining the property. Most of the time I felt like I was in a world all to myself where I could run around with my cats and dog and have a front row seat for the sunset each night. Only a 25 minute drive from me was Chattanooga, which has been named “Best Town Ever” twice by Outdoor Magazine for recreation and nature lovers alike—the perfect place for me!


A home sunset

When I started attending UGA in the Fall of 2015, Athens was a completely new adventure for me. It was nothing like Chickamauga, and not even that much like Chattanooga. Whereas Chattanooga was diverse and sprawling in its views and opportunities, Athens was crowded and tight. There was no beautiful river running right through the middle of it, with mountains and ridges on either side. The only place I could get a good view of the sunset was from one of the top floors of my dorm building, and even then it could never compare to back home. To be honest, my first year was hard, and I missed the feeling of being outside every second possible. Living on the seventh floor of a high-rise makes that pretty difficult. It wasn’t until my sophomore and junior years when I started learning how to adapt to my new surroundings.


Weekend camping trip to Fort Mountain State Park

Warnell played a huge part in me realizing all that Athens had to offer. I had already caught onto the amazing music and food scenes, but I was still itching to get my nature fix. Soon, I started taking classes where I had labs outside, for hours! These labs and the activities exposed me to some of the outdoor opportunities in Athens. I started going to the botanical gardens, Sandy Creek Nature Center, and even my favorite place to collect ticks, Whitehall Forest. And from those labs and classes, I made friends who had that same itch (for nature, not from the ticks) as me. I realized that while Athens might not be able to give me absolutely all of the views and solitude I desired, I was less than a two hour drive to plenty of national forests and state parks. I also realized I was only a 20 minute drive from the best Frisbee golf course in Oconee County, and that I could get outside and walk my dog to a park from just about anywhere in Athens. Athens will never be my “home-home” but I was able to make it a happy home.

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The elusive Athens sunset