STEPHEN F. AUSTIN STATE UNIVERSITY’S Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture is a cutting-edge institution for those seeking to make an impact in the fields of agriculture, environmental science, wildlife, and forestry, including forest wildlife management, as well as geospatial science.
The college offers more than $300,000 in scholarships annually, and 95% of SFA graduates have a job within six months of graduation.
Dr. Hans Williams, dean of the college, enjoys working with his colleagues to inspire undergraduate and graduate students to achieve their career aspirations.
“I can’t wait to get to work each day because each day is unique. I take great satisfaction thinking that I may have contributed, even in a small way, to the professional and personal success of our alumni.”
That student success has translated to groundbreaking research and work in fields that impact everyone who loves the great outdoors.
Caitlin Glymph conducted her SFA graduate student project assisting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in locating potential habitat corridors in Texas and the surrounding states, which may help facilitate the natural return of a native Texas wildlife species.
Past research conducted by SFA graduate students Dan Kaminski and Timothy Siegmund identified six core-recovery units in East Texas with a habitat capable of supporting a viable black bear population.
The next step was identifying how they might naturally return to Texas.
“We wanted to be able to pull out the patches of suitable habitat that could be used for bears to disperse back into East Texas and recolonize it naturally,” Glymph said.
This project relied on spatial data sets detailing the hydrology, land cover, and other variables that comprise the area between currently occupied bear habitat in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and the previously defined areas of suitable habitat in East Texas. The tools provided by the college’s geospatial science program enabled Glymph to pinpoint these key corridors.
Glymph explained that although black bears mostly prefer bottomland hardwood habitat, they are habitat generalists and are capable of adapting to several landscapes.
She also said that human development, including roads and highways, is the most significant barrier for bears as they continue to expand their range.
At the heart of the college is forestry, and after more than three decades, the East Texas Pine Plantation Research Project, initiated by the college, continues to make breakthroughs in the management of East Texas forestlands and the Western Gulf Coast region.
The long-term research program partners with private forest landowners to gather precise scientific data to develop modern tools to optimize the growth, health, and management of the region’s forests.
While industry partners benefit from scientific insight, SFA forestry students profit from the ability to conduct hands-on research in the field.
After joining the college in 2016, Dr. Yuhui Weng, assistant professor of forest biometrics and project director, set a goal to expand partnerships and research projects beyond Texas’ pineywoods to serve timber producers across the Western Gulf Coastal Plain.
“Our research is highly focused on the needs of timber producers in the Western Gulf Coast region,” Weng said. “Because of our expertise in factors influencing forest productivity in the region, we can provide more region-specific, data-driven guidance than other universities who may be located on the southeastern U.S. coast.”
The college’s 726-acre Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research Center is yet another resource allowing students to engage in interdisciplinary research to improve environmental health, maximize agricultural production, and improve animal welfare. Some students are even taking to the air to conduct their research.
Courtney Biles monitored the university’s beef cattle herd using unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.
“New technologies, like drone use, are being introduced to the agriculture industry, and their applications are great in number,” Biles said.
Closer to the ground, environmental science students regularly monitor air quality at the farm’s poultry and swine production centers and research mitigation practices, such as the planting of trees around the facilities.
Currently, the college is developing a silvopasture demonstration plot at the university farm to facilitate further teaching and research opportunities. Silvopasture integrates timber, forage, and livestock production as an integrated system that increases land productivity, sequesters carbon, and provides wildlife habitat.
And some of the college students are even going global.
In 2015, SFA graduate student Amy Brennan conducted the first large-scale survey of citizens regarding public perceptions and opinions of wildfires in the Netherlands.
Her results, which indicate citizens are aware of the growing threat of wildland fires in the country but are unprepared for such events, will provide Dutch agencies with valuable data to help guide public outreach and education.
Brennan, under the direction of Dr. Brian Oswald, professor of fire ecology, silviculture, and range management, distributed and analyzed more than 500 public surveys in the forested Veluwe Region of the Netherlands to provide Dutch agencies with data quantifying public perceptions and opinions of wildfires.
“Social science research focused on wildfires shows it is important to engage local communities in anything regarding risk management,” Brennan said.
“This large-scale survey is the first of its kind to be distributed in the country, and we want to understand the base level of knowledge that the citizens have regarding wildland fires.”
With a Washington Post survey revealing that only 27% of college graduates work in a field closely related to their major, SFA forestry and agriculture students are breaking the mold, establishing careers in their chosen fields promptly upon graduation.
The advanced technology and proximity to natural resources make SFA the ideal university for students seeking hands-on field research. The science-based programs and experienced-based learning prepares graduates for successful careers with top employers from across the country.
Visit sfasu.edu/atcofa to learn more.
Stephen F. Austin State University offers Bachelor of Science degree plans in:
• Agriculture with degree concentrations/majors in agribusiness, agricultural development, agricultural engineering technology, animal science, equine science, horticulture, poultry science and pre-veterinary medicine.
• Environmental science with two degree tracks: a land, air and water track and a discipline specialization track.
• Forestry (Accredited by the Society of American Foresters) with degree concentrations/major in agroforestry, fire ecology and management, human dimensions in natural resources, urban forestry, and forest wildlife management.
• Geospatial science with degree concentrations/majors in natural resources, land surveying, and cultural resources.
SFA also currently offers a Master of Science in:
• Environmental Science
• Resource Communications
SFA also offers a doctorate in forestry.
Located in Nacogdoches, the historic first town in Texas and the very heart of Texas Forest Country, the university offers incredible recreational opportunities and quality of living.
• The only forestry/natural resources program in Texas with easy access to the resources being studied.
• Access to roughly 12 million acres of national, state, and private forestlands across the region.
• Short driving distance to Texas’ two largest reservoirs—Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend—in addition to the region’s numerous rivers and creeks.
• Lanana Creek runs through the SFA campus, and there are more than 70-acres of on-campus forest and recreational trails.
• Outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, biking, hunting and fishing abound.
• In addition to the numerous outdoor recreational opportunities available to SFA students, in 2018, SFA was named one of the safest campuses in America by that National Council for Home Safety and Security.
— TF&G STAFF REPORT