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The summer of 2015 was an exceptional experience for three visiting students participating in hands-on research in the Tree Physiology and Ecosystem Science Lab at North Carolina State University. The Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources sponsored a Forest Water Stress and Climate Change REU, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station. Dr. Stacy Nelson, Associate Professor with the Center for Geospatial Analytics, the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Science Program, arranged their visit and oversaw their stay.IMG_0592

This program focuses on bringing together students from multiple Historically Black Colleges and Universities for a 10-week experience and is designed to directly expose student participants to cutting-edge research surrounding the deployment and monitoring of eleven forest ecosystem stress stations: Remote Assessment of Forest Ecosystem Stress (RAFES) project within the eastern U.S.
The aim is to develop further partnerships with USDA Forest Service Research Stations, possible collaborations with researchers at Duke University, and other outside research organizations, as well as highlight the Forest Service’s current Strategic Workforce Development Initiative.

From James Vose and Dave Wear of the USDA, Forest Service Southern Research Station and Center for Integrated Forest Science, “We appreciate the partnership with Stacy Nelson and the College of Natural Resources-FER! These Forest Service Cooperative Agreements are critical for helping to increase diversity within the USFS as well. We saw this as a fantastic opportunity for our work unit (Center for Integrated Forest Science) to build on a collaborative project that we started with John King a few years ago. The students will have an opportunity to participate in some interesting and important science!”

Program participant, Ana, writes, “This summers experience was absolutely amazing. I was able to learn so much about something that I can hopefully connect back to my major. I’ve always wanted to be able to do something related to the environment and had been having trouble being able to connect it back to Civil Engineering. As an intern, I was able to talk to a lot of head figures in the department and they were able to give me insight about how to relate the two things that I’m interested in. Not only were we able to work in a lab with graduate and undergraduate researchers, we were able to network and connect to many people within the Forestry Department. I learned new skills, such as GIS, that could possibly help me in future careers. This internship was really helpful for me in figuring out what I want to do with my future career, as well as having a great network of people at NC State.”

Rayquan, participant, writes, “This internship helped me broaden my possibilities of the future. The best part to me was the different environment in the aspects of it being a D1 PWI versus my Virginia State University environment. Networking was a major plus for me as well. Before this summer, I would’ve never thought I’d get to meet the dean and president of such a prestigious school.”

Students were paid a stipend of $450 per week, along with housing and travel, through funds from the the USDA Forest Services’ Southern Research Station. The students lived in Wolf Village, on campus for 10 weeks, allowing them to integrate fully into the campus experience, as well interact socially with other undergraduate students at NC State from a diverse array of backgrounds and disciplines. Their primary responsibility was working in John King’s lab, developing sap-flow probes for distribution throughout the Remote Assessment of Forest Ecosystem Stress (RAFES) network of 11 field sites within the south east and central parts of the U.S.IMG_0590

The Forest Water Stress and Climate Change REU program was designed for direct exposure for participants to the cutting edge research surrounding the deployment and monitoring of 11 forest ecosystem stress stations within the eastern U.S., and in collaboration with USDA Forest Service Research Stations, universities, and other partner research organizations. Under the mentorship of faculty and institutional partners, the selected students participated in the development of the network sensors, as well as the modeling and analysis of the network measurements; including: air and soil temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, solar radiation, fuel temperature and moisture, volumetric soil water content and matric potential, and sap flux density. The majority of the laboratory training and analyses took place in the Tree Physiology and Ecosystem Science Lab, within the
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and the Center for Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University. However, the students also participated in field visits and probe deployments within the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina.

The intent is to develop further collaborations through continued renewals of this REU program with cooperators at the USDA Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC), as well as possible collaborations with researchers at Duke University.