New fellowships set to boost forest management, science communication
By: George Watson
Two researchers from Texas Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources have created a suite of fellowships with the goal of training the next generation of experts who are highly adept at both forest resource management and science communication.
The proposal by Nathan Gill, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management and Lindsay Kennedy, an assistant professor of practice in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, aims to award fellowships to two master's students and two doctoral students, who will use transdisciplinary coursework, workshops, service learning, peer-to-peer research and a capstone project to attain their expertise in these areas.
The fellowships are backed by a $241,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Cooperative State Research Education & Extension Service. The National Needs Fellowship grants program of the USDA is intended to sponsor the training of experts in priority areas of agriculture and natural resource management.
“We're enthusiastic to create fellowships through this grant for graduate students who will be rigorously trained in both science communication and fire ecology and management,” Gill said. “The fellows will go on to careers where both effective communication skills and a keen understanding of wildland fire are both urgently needed.”
Because of the nature of the fellowships, success will be measured by factors beyond just grades earned. Each fellow will have the opportunity to earn a degree in either department with Gill and Kennedy serving as faculty advisers. The fellows' success will be tracked in terms of retention, graduation and career placement to analyze the effectiveness of each component of the fellowship.
The goal is to have these fellows placed in roles where their expertise is greatly needed and where they can have a national impact in fire management, where the nuances of the relationship between wildfires, climate and forest service management are not only understood but communicated effectively. The hope also is that fellows who enter the forest resources workforce will help inspire creativity and increase the value of an organization's employee knowledge, skills and business training with their expertise gained from the fellowship.
“Now, more than ever, there is a great need for effective science communication,” Kennedy said. “This fellowship program is another example of the valuable cooperative efforts between NRM and our agricultural communications program to place knowledgeable and qualified individuals into the workforce to help solve real world problems impacting our natural resources.”
In addition, Gill and Kennedy serve as co-directors of the Bridge Adventure program within CASNR, which focuses on transformational experiential learning for diverse undergraduate students. They say this fellowship could integrate into the Bridge Adventure program because it gives students the chance to engage in field research that aligns with fellows' thesis and dissertation objectives. Fellows also could mentor a team of undergraduate Bridge Adventure students to develop leadership skills while receiving assistance with research.
CONTACT: Cindy Akers, Interim Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2808 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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