I wanted to share how much I appreciate the openness of the ESSM faculty and staff during my interim role as Department Head. It has been a real pleasure to get to know the department better and to learn more about Soil and Crop Sciences by comparing the two units. It has been a special pleasure to participate in the enthusiasm for a new curriculum, the efforts to redefine the graduate degrees and the commitment to a world-class research program and dedicated extension of cutting edge technologies. The department is rich in tradition and history, but has truly vested in a future that will keep it one of the best in the country.
It does not seem like it has been that long since Dr. Sams approached me about serving in this role, however, as I review my calendar it is amazing to see the things we have participated in. We completed the annual review process, honored our students for their academic accomplishments and produced the second set of graduates. Congratulations to Dr.Georgianne Moore on her promotion to Associate Professor with tenure, and to Dr. Rusty Feagin and Dr. Konstantin Krutousky on receiving tenure. I have had the opportunity with our associate heads to develop the 2013 fiscal budget and to work through merit and promotion salary adjustments. Several of our faculty have had opportunities for alternate careers and we have worked diligently for the best outcome for all involved. We wish Dr. Hart the best as he explores his new role with Dow. Congratulations to Dr. Doug Loh on his retirement and we appreciate his willingness to teach his courses as we go through the transition. We have completed land sales of Los Indios Ranch and set up an endowment fund for the support of La Copita.
Thanks to Dr. Gan we are making steady progress as we move toward accreditation of our forestry program. This will require a solid effort down the home stretch to as we present the department for review and consider modifications for the future.
While endowed support of the department has not grown rapidly, I have been amazed with the number of individuals that are interested in supporting the department as we go forward. I have had the opportunity to visit with a few of these individuals. The efforts of the unit in the past have truly inspired them to support the future -- you are to be congratulated. I will not be able to keep up with all of the potential so I have asked Judith Turlington to chair a committee to support this effort along with supporting interaction with those that hire our students. If you have contact information for anyone we should touch base with please let me know via Judith.
Transition is never easy, and we have had our bumps on the road to identifying a permanent head. I express my appreciation for those participating in the process. The seminars were of great value in considering alternatives. I have now committed to the interim role for the academic year. I am very impressed with all of the crew taking on a little bit more to make sure things keep moving in the right direction. I am sure that we will find a few things that have slipped through the cracks and I have procrastinated a few decisions thinking we would have a new head in place. As you know, it is my philosophy that decisions made by not making a decision can be costly so until we get new leadership I plan to develop consensus and move forward with the decisions that are on the table. This newsletter represents one of those decisions -- please share your ideas for improving it. A special thanks to Chris and Judith for making it happen and the committee on items to include. We will push decision process and consensus building with the Faculty Retreat on September 14. We will focus on the Forestry Accreditation, but will follow up to develop a strategic plan for guiding deployment of our faculty resources.
We need to get our seminar series moving. We can consider restructuring it, but it is essential for the department to vest in seminar for the benefit of our students and our own understanding of opportunities for collaboration within the department. Please start to think about how we can make seminar work for the spring semester.
A special thanks to the ESSM staff and the Soil and Crop Sciences staff for their efforts to support my sanity with many conflicts in play.
-- Dr. David Baltensperger
Information Technology Update from Jeff Wythe
All of us in the department can benefit from software learning. Take advantage of the many classes offered. Many are free or very low cost.
- ESSM Faculty Retreat, September 14, 2012 Range Area. General faculty meeting 8 - 8:30 am and SAFaccreditation procedures meeting from 8:45 - 1:30 pm Lunch will be served.
- ESSM Welcome Back Fall Picnic, October 16, 2012 Hensel Park 5:00 pm For more information contact Heather Janke at email@example.com
- Society of American Foresters National Convention, October 24 - 28, 2012 Spokane, WA (poster submission deadline: September 9)
- Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference, November 2 - 4, 2012 Weslaco, Texas (more information)
- Society for Range Management 2013 Annual Meeting, February 3 - 7, 2013 Oklahoma City, OK
- College Outstanding Awards Ceremony/New Faculty Introductions, September 12, 2012
- COADC Fall Meeting, September 27-29, 2012
- College Tailgate, September 29, 2012
Ready to watch the Aggies take on the Razorbacks? Join us 3 hours before kickoff to reunite with old friends, say hello to current and former faculty and staff, and enjoy plenty of food and drinks! We'll be at the Agriculture and Life Sciences Complex on west campus.
Game Day Parking • Get to the Grid Shuttle
- College Appreciation and Recognition Event, October 13, 2012
- College Holiday Social, December 3, 2012
Dr. Steve Whisenant, former Department Head of ESSM, takes on new role in world’s newest country
April 3, 2012
By: Paul Schattenberg, 210-467-6575, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Steve Whisenant, who for the past nine years has served as head of the ecosystem science and management department at Texas A&M University in College Station, has recently taken on a new position in the world’s newest nation – South Sudan.
Whisenant recently relocated to Bor in the state of Jonglei. He will be working in conjunction with the Texas A&M University System’s Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, serving as chief of party for a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded agricultural improvement project led by the institute.
“Dr. Whisenant had provided outstanding leadership for the department of Ecosystem Science and Management over the past nine years, and we are pleased that he has taken on this new challenge to help feed our world,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences. “We look forward to his continued contributions as a faculty member, both in College Station and abroad."
In 2011, Whisenant was elected to lead the international Society for Ecological Restoration, a non-profit headquartered in Washington, D.C. with members in 70 countries worldwide.
Read the full story on AgriLife Today.
Happenings in ESSM Undergraduate Programs
From Dr. Mort Kothmann, Professor & Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Programs
Implementation of New Curricula
Fall semester of 2012 will mark the entry into our revised curricula and courses. This coming academic year will involve transitions as continuing students will be finishing under the old curricula and having to make some substitutions where we have dropped courses that were required. We are registering the new freshman and transfer students into the new courses. Where an old course has been replaced by a new course, we will try to utilize the same time and room assignments. Heather and Bob are currently working on scheduling the rooms and times for the spring 2013 semester courses. You will be contacted to review the proposed schedule before it is submitted. It is important that we get all of the courses that will be taught next spring in the schedule so that students and advisors in other departments have access to them during preregistration this fall. Room availability is limited and competition is high. We have to negotiate with other departments in our college and also at the university level. All classrooms “belong” to the registrar’s office and they have the final say, so we need your cooperation and patience as we work through this process.
Enrollment by major for the Spring 2012 semester was ECOR 20, FORS 17, RLEM 56, RENR 55, and SPSA 27 for a total of 175 students.
The numbers of students with GPA greater than 3.0 has tended to increase.
Goals for 2012-13 academic year include continuing to improve the academic standing of our students, to enhance recruiting in all majors, to evaluate and ‘fine tune’ our new courses and curricula, and to align program outcome assessment with our new curricula. Achievement of these goals will require the support and involvement of all ESSM faculty.
Study Abroad: Around Africa with Drs. Urs Kreuter and Bill Rogers
The five-week program in 2012 ran from May 25 through July 1 and was directed by Urs Kreuter and Bill Rogers from ESSM and Amanda Stronza from RPTS during the third phase of the course in Botswana. Seventeen students form the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences participated; 7 were Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences majors, 6 were Ecosystem Science and Management majors and 4 were from three other departments.
The program was the most ambitious to date. In total they covered about 8,000 miles, all by road and visited four countries including South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe. South Africa is about 1.8 times the size of Texas, while Botswana is similar in size to Texas. During the trip they drove the breadth and length of South Africa as well as about a third of Botswana. The study program focused on three regions: the Cape coast, the Lowveld (low-lying) conservation areas of northeastern South Africa, and northern Botswana.
While the course presented some significant challenges, including long hours traveling in vans and some colder than usual temperatures, overall the course was a great success. They did indeed experience diversity on many levels. No previous student group has covered so much of the region and seen so many of its landscapes. Naturally, a big attraction of this course is the region’s broad array of large mammals and birds. During the trip they were fortunate to see all of the big five mammals (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard), many other mammals including rare species such as roan antelope, honey badger and aardvark (ant eater), and over 200 bird species. Finally, the students experienced diverse social and cultural settings. These included informal settlements (shanty towns) where they observed the reality of life for a large proportion of people living in modern South Africa, private homes, private and traditional public conservation areas, and training centers. For the price tag, this was a heck of a deal for the participating students and, based on previous experience, for many it will have been a life changing experience!
ESSM Bridges with Hispanic Serving Institutions to Fill USDA Jobs
By Drs. Diana Doan-Crider and Mort Kothmann
Ever hear the saying “kill two birds with one stone?” Well, we’re doing more than that! Recently, the Department of ESSM teamed up with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a smaller Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) to address a number of “disconnects” in the academia-agency pipeline. As many of us know, the USDA is challenged in refilling their rapidly retiring natural resources staff, otherwise known as the “graying of the green.” Particularly in the area of natural resource management, agencies have been challenged in building a workforce that represents the diversity of the U.S. population. In addition, because many of USDA’s field positions (e.g., forestry, range management, restoration ecology, soil ecology, watershed management) are highly specialized, many students are not “field ready” for agency positions, or have not acquired the proper curriculum requirements for those positions as required by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Through input from several past projects and a USDA-NIFA sponsored HSI grant, the “Three E’s Program: Education, Experiential Learning, and Employment,” was developed. Currently, our lead partner is Dr. Bill Quinn at St. Edwards University (SEU) in Austin, which has a strong undergraduate research program, high academic standards, and has been an excellent collaborator. However, while SEU has a highly diverse student population, their degree programs are more broad-based, and are limited to topics such as Biology and Environmental Science. Their students, therefore, graduate without the specialized courses required for many of the USDA natural resource positions. Our university, on the other hand, may have highly specialized curricula, but does not have the high diversity from which to recruit. Therefore, we combined strengths from each university to help the USDA meet their challenges.
The concept is straightforward. Top quality students from SEU and from the Department of ESSM are invited to participate in a 3-week tour of the western U.S. to learn about different career opportunities with federal agencies. From there, students wishing to continue with the program are placed in summer internships with the agencies. Upon their graduation, qualifying students are “bridged” into ESSM’s graduate program, where they can obtain the curriculum requirements for their agency positions. Meanwhile, we team our own graduate faculty members up with the students and agency representatives to develop what we call “agency-relevant research,” topics, which helps the agency meet their own applied research challenges, trains the student in agency protocol and research needs, and ensures interesting, scientifically robust and publishable material for our own graduate faculty members. Through the grant, students are provided with fellowships for their graduate tenure, and we work closely with the agencies to help prepare and place the students into an agency position upon their graduation. Because some areas of the USDA require PhD’s for certain positions, students can opt to continue into the doctoral program. For more information about the program, contact Diana Doan-Crider, email@example.com.
Happenings in ESSM Graduate Programs
New students arriving in August
Ten new graduate students will join the department in fall semester 2012. Please welcome them all to campus! (Advisors are listed in parentheses.)
- Kyle Clifton (Dr. Kreuter)
- Michele Clark (Dr. Kreuter)
- Jacquelin Ebeling (Dr. Hatch)
- Nicole Ortiz (Dr. Rogers)
- Elizabeth Wilson (Drs. Vogel and West)
- Yang Zhang (Drs. West and Vogel)
Master of Natural Resources Development, distance, students:
- Robert Crowe (Dr. Wilcox)
- Leslie Dietz (Dr. Wilcox)
- Eve Ganze (Dr. Rogers)
- Rob Moss (Dr. Conner)
Graduate student awards
Please congratulate our graduate students on some recent awards:
- Matt Berg—received the Tom Slick Graduate Research Fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year
- Wasantha Kulawardhana—received the Schlumberger Foundation 2012-2013 Faculty for the Future Fellowship
- Gaby Sosa—received the U.S. Forest Service Chief’s Scholar fellowship
- David Toledo—received the Judges’ Choice Award for his entry in the nation-wide National Science Foundation-IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) video and poster competition
- Elizabeth Wilson - was awarded a prestigiousMerit Fellowshipfrom the Office of Graduate Studies, as well as an Excellence Fellowship from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
- Chris Garza – second place in Student Research Week graduate poster and third place in Ecological Integration Symposium graduate poster
2012 Norman Hudson Memorial Award
Drs. Raghavan Srinivasan (TAMU/ESSM and AgriLife Research- Blackland) and Jeff Arnold (USDA/ARS –Temple) received the 2012 Norman Hudson Memorial Award from the World Association of Soil and Water Conservation for the development and world wide application of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT).
The 2012 International SWAT Conference took place last month in New Delhi, India. The conference drew over 200 participants from 25 countries and 6 continents. Video, presentations, and photos are available on the SWAT website.
Dr. Robert Washington-Allen's Work in the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Laboratory
Robert spent most of his summer working out of the country on major grants on the following projects:
- Control Chinese Tallow in the Harris County Flood Control District. Working on the project is 2 graduate students Alfredo Delgado and Cameron Brademan and two undergraduate students Kyle Landolt and Maggie Wann.
- Recently completed research projects in San Isidro Penas Blancas, Costa Rica and Chingaza National Park, Colombia.
- Robert and Dr. Georgianne Moore and graduate student Rosaleen March worked on with Texas Forest Service to map the extent of tree mortality in Texas from the extreme drought of 2011.
ESSM Club News
Plant Identification Team
The Plant Identification Contests are made up of a list of plants found across North America. The team members are responsible for learning the scientific name of the plant and the proper spelling of the plant. The Texas Chapter - The Wildlife Contest also has “wildcard” plants that are not on the list. The students had to learn over 260 plant species by sight; twigs, roots, stems, flowers and florets (grass flowers). They may only get to see one of one these parts to identify the plant. They competed against a total of 32 universities and 160 individuals from across North America.
Texas Section Society for Range Management Annual Meeting San Angelo, TX - October 2011
- 1st Place Team
- 2nd IND - Kenna Brooks
- 3rd IND - Laura Stapper
- Team Members: Kenna Brooks, Caitlin Connell, Bradly Dietert, Bryan Tarbox, Laura Stapper, Jae Ebeling, Garrett Friesenhahn, Kaitlin O’Brien
Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, Spokane, Washington January 2012
- 3rd Place Team
- 5th IND - Kenna Brooks
- Team Members: Kenna Brooks, Bradly Dietert, Kelsey Davis, Bryan Tarbox, Laura Stapper, Jae Ebeling, Garrett Friesenhahn, Kaitlin O’Brien
Front row: Paul Quin Back row: Garrett Friesenhahn, Bryan Tarbox, Kaitlin O’Brien, Mike Legere, Kenna Stapp,
Texas Section - The Wildlife Society Annual Meeting, Fort Worth, TX - February 2012
- 1st Place Team
- 1st IND - Kenna Brooks
- 2nd IND - Kelsey Davis
- 3rd IND - Laura Stapper
- Team Members: Kenna Brooks, Bradly Dietert, Kelsey Davis, Laura Stapper, Jae Ebeling
- Coach: Robert Knight
Extemporaneous Speaking Contest
- Kenna Brooks
- Kaitlin O’Brien
- Paul Quin
Combined (URME & Plant Team) Results
- 2nd Place Individual - Bryan Tarbox
- 6th Place Individual – Kenna Brooks
Range Club is affiliated with the Society for Range Management. The purpose of this organization is to promote the benefits of Range Management and professionalism for students. The club promotes the wise management of the natural resources of Texas and the World.
- President - Brad Dietert
- Vice President - Deseri Nally
- Secretary - Michael Legere
- Treasurer - Kenna Brooks
- Fundraising - Laura Stapper
- Social Committee Chair - Deseri Nally
- Reporter - John Legere
- Faculty Advisors Dr. Mort Kothmann & Dr. Bob Knight
Student Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society
The main goal of this organization is the development and advancement of the science and art of good land use and management and the promotion of the conservation of soil, water, air and related renewable natural resources.
- President - Deseri Nally
- Vice President - Candace Green
- Treasurer - Berry Isensee
- Secretary - Heather Watson
- Faculty Advisors: Dr. Bob Knight & Dr. Tom Hallmark
Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters
Eileen Cook, President
Gregory Nagel, Secretary
Nelson Mills, Treasurer
Chit and Chatter
Looking Back at the Range Department...
Row 1 (L to R): Jerry Stuth, Amy Thurow, Joe Schuster, Fred Smeins, Bob Ragsdale, Bob Whitson, Rod Bovey, Wayne McCully
Row 2 (L to R): A.H. “Fred” Walker; Larry White, Richard Conner, Wayne Hanselka, Harold Weideman, Darrell Ueckert, Bob Lyons, Steve Archer, Tommy Welch, Tom Boutton
Row 3 (L to R): David Briske, Barron Rector, Ed Huston, Bob Knight, Ben Wu, Keith Owens, Allan McGinty, Charlie Hart, Wayne Hamilton, J.F. Cadenhead, Mort Kothmann, Steve Hatch