Tag: College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Samuel Opoku

During my master’s degree program, I worked as a Research Assistant at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana under the supervision of Prof. Emmanuel Opuni-Frimpong. There, I worked on Clean Development Mechanism and Mahogany projects, funded by International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). The passion and zeal I demonstrated in the research activities made me realize I had an interest in a long-term career in ecological and forestry research. Though I joined the forestry industry upon obtaining my master’s degree, I always had my mind and heart fixed on returning to a research environment to contribute to finding solutions to numerous ecological challenges faced as a society.

It was, therefore, refreshing when I was awarded a graduate scholarship to study PhD in Forest Science at Michigan Technological University under the advisement of Dr. Andrew J. Burton. Since joining MTU, I have been working on the Face Wood Decomposition Experiment (FWDE) project funded by NSF, where logs of trembling aspen, paper birch, and loblolly pine with distinct isotopic signatures were deployed across nine diverse forest sites of the conterminous United States to monitor wood decomposition and carbon transfer to soil. On this project, I have worked to improve our understanding of terrestrial carbon cycling by analyzing soils collected beneath the decomposing logs and quantified the proportions of the logs’ carbon moved into soil carbon pools. I have also examined the mechanisms (e.g., site, log species type, and termites) that drive the logs’ carbon incorporation into soil pools. For the first time, my doctoral research is providing this important information critical to advancing terrestrial carbon modeling and as well improve soil carbon sequestration management options in response to management practices and climate-related impacts.

I sincerely thank my advisor Dr. Andrew J. Burton, who has been unrelenting in his support and guidance throughout my PhD journey. My sincere gratitude to my committee members and the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science for their support throughout my stay in the program. I am also grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel, the Dean and the Graduate school for awarding me the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship. The Fellowship would let me stay focused on completing my PhD dissertation during the coming summer

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Claudia Bartlick

I started my PhD journey in 2019 and currently work with Dr. Julia Burton and Dr. Christopher Webster at the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. My research is part of the “Northern Hardwood Silviculture Experiment to Enhance Diversity,” where I investigate how plant species in managed northern hardwood forests respond to different environmental factors and silvicultural practices. Forests provide crucial economic and ecological services, and my work aims to develop sustainable management strategies that balance profitable forests and the conservation of forest services in the future. With the arising challenges posed by climate change, it is essential to address the risk of losing biodiversity and explore ways to maintain and enhance the species composition in managed forests. In addition to my research, I have a passion for teaching. As a former teaching assistant at Michigan Tech, I have found sharing knowledge to be rewarding and plan to include it in my future career. 

I am deeply grateful for being awarded the Finishing Fellowship. Receiving the Fellowship is an incredible honor and allows me to focus on completing my degree and publishing my research. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my co-advisors, Dr. Julia Burton and Dr. Christopher Webster, and the members of my advisory committee, Dr. Robert Froese, Dr. Yvette Dickinson, and Dr. Chelsea Schelly, for their constant support and guidance. Further thanks also to the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science for creating an encouraging community and an exceptional academic environment, contributing to both my personal and professional growth.

I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to finishing my dissertation and taking on new challenges.

DeVlieg Graduate Summer 2023 Research Recipient – Tiffany Degroot

My name is Tiff DeGroot, and I am a PhD Candidate in Forest Science in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. I came to Michigan Tech through a winding path. In my early 20s, I waited tables and cleaned horse stalls to pay for general education courses until I could transfer into a bachelor’s program. Then I completed my BS in Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cellular Biology at the University of New Hampshire, while working nights and weekends at an indoor skydiving facility. After graduation, I saved up as much money as I could and purchased a plane ticket to South Africa to pursue my lifelong dream of studying African wildlife. I saw my first wild giraffe, tracked elephants and cheetahs, and set up camera traps to monitor leopards. When I returned to the US, I joined a global conservation non-profit, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). My position at IFAW focused on communicating conservation efforts to a broad audience. 

With a background in science and a keen interest in applied conservation, I decided to return to academia. I started by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Forest Ecology and Management at Michigan Tech. My project focused on camera trapping and noninvasive methods of mammal monitoring in Equatorial Guinea in central Africa. After one semester, I was invited to expand this project to a PhD. My project now spans multiple spatial scales, and will address mammal diversity, distribution, and communities across Equatorial Guinea. The results of this research will not only contribute to the scientific community, but will also be used to directly inform the on-the-ground management of protected areas in Equatorial Guinea. 

When I am not in the lab, coding, or sorting camera trap photos, you can usually find me in my garden, training my rescue dog, or in the pottery studio.

I am incredibly grateful to the DeVlieg Foundation for allowing me the opportunity to focus on my project this summer. With an entire semester dedicated to my work, I will make good progress towards my second publication by completing a study that compares the use of camera trapping and environmentally-derived DNA (a non-invasive genetic monitoring technique) to assess mammalian diversity in Equatorial Guinea.

Michigan Tech gratefully acknowledges support from The DeVlieg Foundation for the DeVlieg Summer Research Award.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – Rob Tunison

I started collecting tropical plant physiology data for Dr. Molly Cavaleri as a plant physiology technician in October 2018 and started as a PhD student in her lab within the year. My interests in plant physiology are applied to how plants will respond to environmental forcings caused by climate change. Since plants are both a sink and source for atmospheric carbon, climate change effects on plant physiology will feedback responses to atmospheric carbon. I have been working at the Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment (TRACE), a tropical understory warming experiment located in Puerto Rico, where I have been measuring plant responses to +4 °C experimental warming. I have been looking at acclimation responses to warming in leaf and root respiration, photosynthesis, and the limits for high-heat tolerance in leaves. All of these projects that I have been working on are generating data that will be fed into global models that predict how tropical forests will interact with the atmosphere under different climate scenarios. 

The next step in my career is to start the postdoctoral fellowship I have accepted at Michigan Tech in collaboration with several federal agencies to do the modeling work on the data I collected during my PhD. Dr. Molly Cavaleri, my committee, the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, and the TRACE team have all been amazing to work with and I look forward to working with them more over the next couple of years. I would also like to express my thanks to those who fund the Finishing Fellowship award and gave me the opportunity to spend an extra semester writing up the exciting work I have been doing as PhD student.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Jessica Czarnecki

While working on my B.S. in Chemistry at William Paterson University of New Jersey, I had taken part in an REU program with Maryland SeaGrant. That summer is when I realized I wanted a career in biogeochemistry and soil science. I continued on with my studies, receiving my M.S. in Marine Studies from University of Delaware in 2020, and after graduating, I worked for a year and a half in Alaska, where I fell in love with boreal ecosystems. I am now in my second year of pursuing a PhD in Forest Science, working with Evan Kane, conducting research in biogeochemistry of peatlands. When I finish my degree, I want to continue to conduct research in biogeochemistry of wetland environments of boreal systems. I also want to be a mentor to the next generation of scientists who may have come from a non-traditional background or who have struggled with differences in learning that a traditional education may have overlooked.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2022 Recipient – Parth Bhatt

My journey in the field of GIS and Remote Sensing started back home in India when I was working with the Space Application Center, Indian Space Research Organization in the year 2016. The joy and happiness I received from looking at the Remotely Sensed imageries for hours and to discover the things I can achieve with the use of GIS techniques made me firm to pursue further into this field.

I arrived at Michigan Tech for my master’s in the field of GIS in Fall 2016, in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences and was fortunate enough to begin my MTU journey with my advisor Dr. Ann Maclean. After completion of my MS degree, I started my PhD in Spring 2019 with Dr. Maclean. During my research, I focused on using high and ultra-high spatial resolution NAIP and Drone (UAS) imageries to map and monitor the natural habitat communities of the Hiawatha National Forest using machine learning algorithms. The goal of this study was to develop a robust approach using remotely sensed imagery and geomorphological variables to classify the complex vegetation and wetland communities and generate GIS maps which can be extremely useful to resource managers and/or officials to manage the forests in a timely and efficient manner, monitor vegetation changes, and help in enhancing decision making. Along with my PhD research, I am part of a national-level Forest Health Mapping project with the U.S. Forest Service since Fall 2018 where we use high-resolution NAIP imagery along with other variables and developed a model to detect and map individual tree mortality.

I have fully enjoyed my MS and PhD life in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Houghton and CFRES-MTU has awarded me with some of the best things, memories, and blessed people in my life. I am full of gratitude towards my advisor Dr. Ann Maclean for her constant support and guidance throughout this journey at MTU. I am grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for the finishing fellowship award and to help me get one step closer to my endeavors.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2022 Recipient – Peng Quan

In the spring of 2020, I started my PhD life in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University. Under the guidance of Prof. Xinfeng Xie, I have been doing research on the recovery of Kraft lignin from black liquor and its application in polyurethane foams. In my research, I developed a new one-pot liquefaction process to recover Kraft lignin with tunable and predicable yield and molecular properties directly from black liquor. Then, the lignin was used to partially replace the fossil-based polyols to prepare polyurethane foams. I wish my research can contribute to the sustainable development of both pulping and polyurethane industries. 

I would like to thank the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science and the Graduate School for their support in my PhD life here. I also really thank the continuous support from my advisor Prof. Xinfeng Xie, committee members, and my lab members.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2022 Recipient – Chinmoyee Das

I was first introduced to Forest Biomaterials during my master’s degree in Germany. Previously I had known forest-based materials, predominantly wood is used as fuel, construction material and making paper. I was completely awestruck when I came across such advanced applications of wood, where every monomer of wood can be specifically used in advanced materials, and I decided this is what I wanted to do in the future. 

I started my PhD here at Michigan Tech in Summer 2019, in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences with Dr. Xinfeng Xie as my advisor. In my research I focus on the incorporation of biocarbon, that is essentially carbon developed from biomass, into polymer matrices to develop reinforced and electrically conductive composite materials. The goal of this study is to develop materials that can be used as lightweight conductive automotive parts. The comprises of formulation, fabrication and characterization of the composites with a goal of future commercial application in automotive industry, as a replacement for conventional polymer composites. 

I am highly indebted to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory panel for considering and awarding me this fellowship. I am extremely grateful to my advisor Dr. Xie for his constant support and guidance. In this journey not only did my skills and experiences grow and improve, they also contributed to my growth as a person.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2022 Recipient – Samuel Lopes Oliveira

I started my graduation in Forest Science at the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science in the fall of 2017. Before that, I completed my undergrad and Master’s in Brazil working with ecology and conservation of Neotropical birds. At Michigan Tech I was able to complete four fieldwork seasons to collect data about migratory birds that breed in North America and spend the winter in the tropics. This group has been declining at concerning rates, and recent data showed that the winter range can play an essential conservation role. Our broader objective is to determine the value of working landscapes as habitats for wintering birds. Some managed crops in the tropics (e.g., coffee and cacao) can provide good habitats for migratory birds to spend the winter and prepare for the demanding journey back. In Mexico, we assessed a recent agroecosystem in the Americas, oil palm plantations. This crop is rapidly expanding and not much data is available about how the declining migratory birds cope and how the plantations can be managed to improve their habitat quality. In Costa Rica, we worked with local partners and intend to determine if small forest fragments can provide good habitats for the Wood Thrush and develop a decision support tool to inform what sites should be prioritized when funding for protection is limited.

I intend to continue working with research and focus on applied conservation. My goal is to contribute to the development of our current understanding of migratory bird conservation during the winter, especially in working landscapes. Additionally, since I plan to focus my career on migratory bird conservation, especially on the wintering grounds, I aim to travel back to the countries where I collected data and offer courses in bird banding and migratory bird conservation. Capacitating local researchers to develop their own studies, which is an important step to collecting more information about the migrants on the wintering sites. As a Latin American researcher, I feel that most of the studies, especially with migratory birds, are developed by foreign institutions. Thus, offering capacitation opportunities will increase the local research body and address the lack of information on declining migratory birds in the tropics.

I’m thankful for all the support and opportunities received from the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. Also grateful for the mentoring from my advisors, Dr. David Flaspohler and Dr. Jared Wolfe, and committee members Dr. Jessie Knowlton and Dr. Chris Webster.

DeVlieg Graduate Summer 2022 Research Recipient – Samuel Hervey

I am a PhD student in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science and my main research interest is wildlife conservation and how we can utilize noninvasive methods to study and inform management of wildlife. For my PhD research, I am developing multiple noninvasive genetic methods to study the health of the recently introduced wolf population on Isle Royale.

Over the summer semester and with the support of the DeVlieg Foundation, I will be optimizing a set of molecular markers that will help us track the number of wolves occupying Isle Royale as well as the level of inbreeding within the population. With this information we can better understand the health of the wolf population through time and if interventions may be necessary. I cannot thank the DeVlieg Foundation and the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Committee enough for their support.

Michigan Tech gratefully acknowledges support from The DeVlieg Foundation for the DeVlieg Summer Research Award.