Tag: College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

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.

MTU Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Two Michigan Tech graduate students, Tessa Steenwinkel and Tyler LeMahieu, have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, and one undergraduate student, Jenna Brewer, has been given an honorable mention.

The oldest STEM-related fellowship program in the United States, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is a prestigious award that recognizes exceptional graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines early in their career and supports them through graduate education. NSF-GRFP fellows are an exceptional group; 42 fellows have become Nobel Laureates and about 450 fellows are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The fellowship provides three years of financial support, including a $34,000 stipend for each fellow and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for the fellow’s institution. Besides financial support for fellows, the GRFP provides opportunities for research in national laboratories and international research.

The Graduate School is proud of these students for their outstanding scholarship. These awards highlight the quality of students at Michigan Tech, the innovative work they have accomplished, the potential for leadership and impact in science and engineering that the country recognizes in these students and the incredible role that faculty play in students’ academic success.

Tessa Steenwinkel

Steenwinkel is a biochemistry and molecular biology M.S. student under advisor Thomas Werner (BioSci). She has been studying the influence of nutrition on the interplay of fertility, fecundity and longevity in Drosophila. In the long term, she plans to focus on medicinal research and how genetic regulation plays a role in infertility

Werner writes: “Tessa is the best student I have ever had the pleasure to mentor in my lab. During her undergraduate and accelerated M.S. years, she won nine research awards and published 10 research papers and two books with me. I am extremely happy (but not surprised) that she won the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Her newest success proves that I was not mistaken in my choice to name a new fruit fly species in her honor last year, which is named ‘Amiota tessae.'”

Tyler LeMahieu

LeMahieu is an environmental engineering M.S. student under advisor Cory McDonald. LeMahieu’s proposal was titled, “Understanding Wild Rice Site Suitability in a Changing Climate.”

LeMahieu writes: “I plan to dedicate my career to bridging gaps between the scientific body and land managers. I would like to manage public and rural lands for the farmer, the logger and the hunter while managing those same lands for improved water and ecological health into perpetuity. Because fundamentally, rural land managers have the same goal in mind as those studying the environment — a useful, productive and sound ecosystem which will support and be supported by the next generation. That common ground is not always evident to both parties, but I am equipped to act as an intermediary with a foot in both worlds.”

Jenna Brewer

Brewer is a senior undergraduate student from Grand Rapids studying wildlife ecology and management under advisor Jared Wolfe. She plans to continue her education at Michigan Tech, pursuing a graduate degree this fall. Her research aims to develop an acoustic signal to deter birds from potential collision hazards such as city buildings during flight, effectively mitigating bird deaths. After graduate school, she hopes to become an avian ecologist, contributing to projects that focus on migration science.

Wolfe writes: “Jenna’s enthusiastic study of songbird ecology and conservation has long been recognized by her supervisors and peers; now that same passion has been recognized by the National Science Foundation. Faculty at CFRES are incredibly proud of Jenna’s accomplishment!”

2022 Nominee for MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award – Parth Bhatt

“Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach,” is how Greek philosopher Aristotle put it.  My name is Parth Bhatt and I come from the western coast state of Gujarat in India. I came to Michigan Tech in the Fall of 2016 for a master’s in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (CFRES). Before coming to the states, I completed my master of science in the field of Environmental Science in India and was working as a trainee at the Space Application Center, Indian Space Research Organization. It was during my time at the space agency I got exposure to the field of Geographic Information Science and Remote Sensing and realized that I want to go abroad for higher education. When I got the admit letter from  Michigan Tech, I was assigned Dr. Ann Maclean as my advisor, and to be honest, the email conversations I had with her were the driving factors for making Michigan Tech and CFRES my choice. I should say choosing Michigan Tech, CFRES, and Ann as my advisor were some of the best decisions of my life. I completed my MS here at Tech in Fall 2018 and continued the journey further by joining Ph.D. under Dr. Maclean. My master’s and Ph.D. project involve working with the USDA Forest Service, mapping the Hiawatha National Forest at the Natural Habitat Community level. We use high-resolution UAV and airborne NAIP imagery coupled with machine learning algorithms to classify the forest. The project is significant for the USFS as the end products (i.e. classified maps) help the management authorities to protect and manage the forest and help in better decision making. I also work on a national level project of mapping and monitoring the Forest Health by ecoregions across the contiguous United States using Google Earth Engine with the USDA Forest Service. Along with research, I have been enjoying teaching GIS classes in CFRES since Spring 2017, I mainly teach the undergraduate and graduate-level GIS classes and labs. Since Fall 2020, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be a Graduate Teaching Instructor (and thanks to my advisor Dr. Ann Maclean and my dean Dr. Andrew Storer, who trusted and motivated me) to take on this opportunity. I am thankful to my department who nominated me and grateful to the university for selecting me as a nominee for the Midwestern Association of Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award. It is an absolute honor to represent Michigan Tech at the MAGS 2022.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – James K. Rauschendorfer

James Rauschendorfer is a PhD candidate in the Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology graduate program. He is the recipient of a spring 2022 finishing fellowship and is advised by Dr. Carsten Külheim and Dr. Molly Cavaleri. 

The main goal of his PhD project is to assess the climate change readiness of these species using provenance trials, genetics, and physiology. His study is the first to use such a combination to assess climate adaptation in trees and will help prevent deforestation through climate-related events.  He is personally excited to live at a time when genetic resources are becoming widely available for many tree species.