The primary goal of our program is to train graduate students in the methods of experimental and observational research in forest restoration ecology, through pursuit of a Master of Science or Ph.D. degree in the Department of Biology at the University of Mississippi. The key conceptual focus of the program is forest restoration science that explicitly incorporates the monitoring of integrated responses of multiple taxonomic groups and ecosystem processes to forest restoration treatments, long-term responses of invasive, non-native species to ecological restoration, and the role of unplanned natural disturbances in ecological restoration. A consensus is emerging that effective ecosystem restoration cannot be achieved without scientifically rigorous and sustained monitoring of a variety of taxonomic groups and ecosystem processes. In addition, because forest restoration treatments often involve some sort of disturbance, the unintended consequences of such disturbances for invasive species during the restoration process over the long term deserve greater scrutiny. Finally, because restoration of open woodlands from fire-suppressed forests often requires tree harvest or thinning, regulatory constraints on thinning require land managers to be resourceful and take advantage of natural tree-thinning events (e.g., multiple treefall gaps following storms). The goal of our USDA National Needs Graduate Fellowship program will be to train graduate students in science-based forest management and restoration, assuring that they are ready to enter the workforce as scientists with the skills and experience to work as leaders in forest health management and forest restoration.
The program is designed to provide participating students with several unique opportunities and benefits:
- Participation in a collaborative forest restoration ecology project in a local forest ecosystem in northern Mississippi. The project will experimentally test the effects of fire and thinning treatments on a diverse upland deciduous forest ecosystem in northern Mississippi, with each student monitoring the response of a different ecosystem component to restoration treatments.
- A summer internship (expenses paid) with a successful forest ecosystem restoration project in the Rocky Mountain Trench region of British Columbia, Canada, supervised by officials of Canada's Ministry of Forestry and Range.
- Focused coursework, including courses in forest restoration ecology and in professional development for careers in forest restoration ecology and management.
- Meeting travel: Each student will be supported to attend at least one professional meeting, e.g. an annual meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration.
- An annual stipend of ~$17,000 (Master's) or $22,500 (Ph.D.) per year for two years (Master's) or three years (Ph.D.), plus health insurance and tuition waiver.
The program is supported by the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants Program (Award #s 2008-38420-18735 and 2011-38420-30988).
Please address questions about the program to Dr. Steve Brewer: jbrewer at olemiss.edu, 662-915-1077.