Dirac Twidwell Recognized for Research Excellence at ESA

Dirac Twidwell Recognized for Research Excellence at ESA Dirac Twidwell, a PhD student in ESSM, received an Excellence in Rangeland Research Award from the Ecological Society of America (ESA) Rangeland Ecology section. The award was established to recognize student research that "addressed an aspect of the relationship between organisms, biogeochemical cycles, and people to past, present, and future rangeland ecosystems." Dirac presented a paper, Applying prescribed extreme fire within a resilience framework to help stakeholders adapt to changing rangeland environments, which featured a model of how fire-related transformations (e.g. grassland to juniper woodland) in the past, present, and future are driven by interactions among physical, social, and ecological components. An important feature of this model is that it is founded on empirical research that designed and safely ignited prescribed fires in wildfire conditions to demonstrate that the resilience of a post-grassland, non-resprouting juniper woodland can be overcome and restoration of grassland is possible with fire. Subsequently, stakeholders in the southern Great Plains are applying such fires in localized areas to meet their restoration goals, but legislation prevents more widespread application of prescribed extreme fire. Dirac showed how fire legislation is driving ecological regime shifts in rangelands by constraining fire as a physical process, and he projected how changes in legislation will dictate the composition and structure of future rangeland environments.

The award was given to Dirac at the 96th ESA Annual Meeting in Austin, TX. ESA was founded in 1915 to promote ecological science by improving communication among ecologists, raise the public's level of awareness of the importance of ecological science, increase the resources available for the conduct of ecological science, and ensure the appropriate use of ecological science in environmental decision making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy-makers. ESA is home to over 10,000 members that conduct research, teach, and use ecological science to address environmental issues spanning: biotechnology, natural resource management, ecological restoration, ozone depletion and global climate change, species extinction and loss of biological diversity, and sustainable ecological systems. Approximately 3,800 people attended this year's meeting.