Spring 2021 Newsletter

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Natural Resources and Environmental Science


The Environmental Education Issue Where on Campus is NRES? What doe NRES Mean to You? Meet the new NRES Leadership!





Words of Wisdom Students and Alumni Course Highlight Faculty Research Map of UK Environmental Alert Wildlife Minor Meet the Staff What Does NRES Mean to You? Upcoming Dates and Shoutout

3 4-5 6 7 8-9 10-11 12 13 14-15 16

Cover: Childlike rendering of the environment designed to illustrate youth involvement in Environmental Education Above: Robinson Forest viewed from the fire tower

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Welcome to the Spring 2021 NRES newsletter. This issue focuses on environmental education which represents one of the analytical skill development (ASD) areas in the curriculum. This area leverages the interdisciplinary nature of the field and incorporates aspects of social science and behavioral psychology to prepare students to embrace environmental principles and take informed action at various scales. Awareness of environmental issues through education and outreach will be required to meet environmental challenges currently facing society. The environmental education class (NRE 365), cotaught by Laurie Thomas and Jennifer HubbardSanchez this spring, will be featured in the newsletter along with alumni working in marine environmental education and soil conservation outreach. The NRES program currently has 112 students and numerous alumni. NRES is led by a dedicated and talented steering committee (SC) with expertise ranging from forestry to alternative transportation and landscape architecture, to geography and geology, to soil science and agricultural economics. The functions of the SC are to advise students, refine and revise the curriculum, and promote the program. This year the NRES program will undergo a review and we look forward to how this process will shape the future of this interdisciplinary program. What is unique about this newsletter is the fact that it is prepared by students. We are thankful to our two student outreach assistants, Josie Geoghegan and Julia Maugans, and volunteer Katherine Duckworth, who worked with Dr. Adia Sovie to prepare the Newsletter. If you have news, comments, or information to include in the newsletter, please email Adia at Adia.Sovie@uky.edu. We aim to keep you informed of our activities and engaged in the success of our current students and alumni. Dr. Chris Matocha


“BEST FISHES” BY DAVID EHLERT I am the Campus Coordinator at Reef Environmental Education Foundation in Key Largo Florida. REEF maintains the world’s largest marine citizen science database, with data from ten distinct regions worldwide. This data is used by policymakers and scientists to guide their decisions. My job is to manage our Marine Conservation Internship program, and welcome visitors to our campus in Key Largo. During my time at the University of Kentucky, I had the opportunity to take full advantage of the opportunities the NRES program had to offer, including the new wildlife biology minor. The minor required herpetology and mammalogy, which turned into some of the most rewarding classes I had the chance to enroll in. These classes led to me learning to see deep into the Kentucky wilderness, teaching me to look at the forest in a way I never had before. I also became involved in the herpetology lab with Dr.Price, which led to the opportunity to monitor streamside salamanders throughout eastern Kentucky, in addition to monitoring the calls of several different frog species in Paducah. NRES led me to these experiences, which encouraged me to look for a chance to get involved with invasive species. During the summer between my junior and senior year, I was able to become a Marine Conservation Intern at REEF. During that summer, I became heavily involved in their invasive species program which largely focused on lionfish in Florida. I was able to gain several scuba diving certifications and participate in the majority of REEF’s programs as an intern. My experience was incredible, and I encourage everyone to travel out of state to take an internship if they are able.

After my senior year, I moved to New Orleans and worked in a small community garden named Okra Abby. This garden focused on growing fresh healthy food for the local community in downtown New Orleans. I learned to grow food in all sorts of weather, and worked with nearby chefs to prepare a meal for the neighborhood once a week. In the winter of 2019, I interviewed for REEF’s Campus Coordinator position and moved to Key Largo permanently. My experience in the NRES program led me to my position at REEF today. I encourage everyone to try as many different things as possible during your time at the University of Kentucky. There are many different routes to careers in the conservation field. I never thought that I would be interested in marine conservation, however I found my passion and am chasing my goal of a sustainable future for our oceans. Have some fun during labs, and take full advantage of office hours. The professors in the college genuinely care about you, and are more than happy to give you advice on whatever challenges you may be facing. Best fishes, David

Photos above supplied by David Ehlert Left: David teaching kids about a Sharp Nose Pufferfish Right: Studying a Spotted Scorpionfish on a dive

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SHANNON’S INVASIVE SPECIES SUMMER BY JULIA MAUGANS Shannon McCall (‘21) went into her internship uncertain about her future in NRES, but she left it with valuable skills and an appreciation for one of the many paths NRES students can take. Shannon transferred to NRES in Spring 2019, so before starting her internship with the Land and Waters Trust she had little experience in NRES coursework. During her internship, Shannon surveyed land, planned invasive species management, and eradicated invasive species. Shannon primarily worked to remove Amur Honeysuckle, but also managed Purple Wintercreeper, Chinese Privet, and Tree of Heaven. Her internship challenged her to create a project revolving around their work.

Shannon put together a project where she surveyed managed and unmanaged plots of land, conducted counts of the species present and put together statistical analyses of her findings. In her first foray into NRES work, Shannon was able to come out with a better understanding of where she wanted her career to go and applicable skills that would aid her in upcoming NRES courses.

the field associated with her internship, it highlights the importance of trying multiple paths and emphasizes why a multidisciplinary program like NRES works well for so many students!

Through her internship, Shannon discovered that invasive species removal isn’t her cup of tea. However, through her NRES classes, Shannon discovered a love of academia and made the decision to go to Veterinary school. Though she chose not to pursue Photo Credit Shannon McCall

YOUR AVERAGE JO BY JO GEOGHEGAN In the fall of my junior year, I finally found what I was looking for in NRES. I found subjects I could be passionate about and people who supported

I was originally going to get on here and write about how glorious college is, which it is for the most part, but I would be doing a disservice to anyone

to my classmates turned friends, I will always be grateful for the laughs that we shared in “the dungeon” and our late-night library study sessions

me, and finally started getting better grades. For the past year and a half, I consecutively made the Dean’s List, produced three newsletters, and have recently accepted an internship after graduation in May with an environmental consulting group in Philadelphia. I certainly was not a star student for my first year of college, or my second, and it was not until my third year that I even discovered I liked writing and applied for the Newsletter.

struggling to find their place right now. I am going to speculate and say the people highlighted on these pages with me also had their fair share of trials and tribulations in college. If anyone takes anything away from this, I want you to know you have the ability to shape your own future. So, go study for that test, join that club, reach out to that person sitting in front you, and also remember to have fun while you are here. You are only an undergraduate once. Also,

that allowed me to find my passion.

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Exploring caves on the NRE201 trip


NACHIE IS KEEPING IT NATURAL BY JO GEOGHEGAN “Don’t limit your career choices to what seems realistic”, says Nachie Braga, a 2019 graduate from the NRES program. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, he involved himself in a multitude of extracurriculars and outside organizations such as UK Fire Cats, UK TreeCATs, GreenThumb, and Reforest the Bluegrass. It is clear to see from Bragas extensive involvement and volunteer work, that he has never been one to limit himself. In his post-grad life, he has started his own permaculture design business, you can see the work he is doing in Lexington on their Instagram account @geomancerpermaculture.

Permaculture is a land management design that focuses on creating a natural landscape within an urban area. Braga is currently working on redesigning the landscape of the KCTCS System Office to include all-native plants that will provide numerous ecosystem services. Through his work, he hopes to “be an example to other large institutions of how to make their landscaping more environmentally sustainable”. With his work in the Lexington area, Braga spreads his clear passion for the environment with his social media presence, and he continues to educate others on the importance of restoration in the Lexington community. It is often

reiterated that NRES offers numerous avenues of career opportunity, and Nachie Braga is a real-life example of showing that the limits really are endless.

Photo credit Nachie Braga

Learn more about Nachies project around lexington on his Instagram. The photo to right was supplied by @geomancerpermaculture. Photo Caption: “A finished look at the conceptual design posted early last month for converting seven acres of unutilized fields at the University of Kentucky’s Organic Farming Unit into a permaculture food forest”

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All of us have had that conversation before. The one where you wearily explain why the ice outside doesn’t mean that climate change is a hoax and why you can and should recycle that bottle. Each of us is responsible for educating those around us on being environmentally friendly, and the younger people are educated, the better. Environmental Education (EE) is a growing field and a popular analytical skill development area (ASD) among NRES students. Environmental educators share a desire to use their careers to show others the incredible world around us and why it’s worth taking care of. One great course to take if you are interested in EE is NRE365 “Environmental Education” with Laurie Thomas. Laurie is joined this year by Jennifer HubbardSanchez, the Recreation Manager for Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. Laurie got both her Bachelors and Masters degree in Forestry from the University of Kentucky and works as an extension forester in addition to

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teaching the class. Jennifer has an MS in Environmental Studies and an MA in Anthropological studies, as well as a BA in Spanish. She is also the Chair of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education. Learning about the environment isn’t just limited to children, and over the course of the semester students learn how to appeal to a wide range of audiences. Students develop a lesson plan, present lessons, and learn how to educate the people around them. The class at its core is about variety. Variety in people, topics, and vocations. Laurie described perfectly the need for such variety when she said, “No matter what job you do, you’re always going to have the experience of helping to educate somebody else and to me this is a great class for that, even though you may not necessarily wind up going into something environmental.” Classes are enriched through weekly guest speakers that highlight all the different positions environmental educators can fill. Additionally,

students earn their Project Learning Tree and Project WET certifications. These programs are designed for Pre-K through Grade 8 and provide activity guides. This year, the class offers training on the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Community Guidelines, which details the basics of effective environmental education. The idea is to prepare students as much as possible for whatever educating they may have to do and in this strays from the heavy focus on formal teaching that many education classes are focused on. As Jennifer succinctly put it,“It’s good to think about your own perspectives on the environment and environmental issues and to think about how other people’s perspectives are formed and how we can better connect if we try to understand those perspectives and where they come from.”

Photo Credit Laurie Thomas



Now that he is at UK, Chris is studying Critical Zone Pedology, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to soil science by looking at how soils interact with other natural aspects: the atmosphere, water, land use, etc. He is focused on discovering why soil behaves in certain ways and how it was formed. In the classroom (well, at least on Zoom), Chris teaches Soil Judging and Advanced Soil Judging. Students learn how to describe soils--their horizons, their color, their texture--and are then tested in the field as part of a competition between all the schools in the Southeast. Chris’ other class is a 600-level statistics class for agronomists. Of all the challenges and joys that come with teaching, he says the most rewarding part is when a student has a breakthrough and finally understands a concept they’ve been struggling with, something that happens especially often in a heavy statistics class. “We are trained as scientists, but we aren’t trained to teach somebody our science, and when you have figured out how to unlock that ability to communicate a really complex topic to somebody and have them understand it, I find that really positive and rewarding.” One of the best aspects of being an NRES major is the advisors we get to guide us in our Chris decided to join the NRES faculty and Steering journey. A new face this year is Dr. Chris Shepard, Committee because of his love for interdisciplinary of the Plant and Soil Science department. science. “I liked the fact that it was an interdisciplinary program that brought people from all these other Chris grew up in a rural area between Virginia and different departments on campus when there aren’t West Virginia. Like many of us, he discovered his love many instances in which people from all these other for the environment in the forests he ran around in programs get together to have a community around as a child. He went to the University of Virginia for a Environmental Science.” The best part about soils and BS in Environmental Science and found his path in NRES is that, “It’s everywhere.” No matter where you soil science during a summer research experience. go there will be soils formed and an environment He travelled to the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to study, whether that’s Arizona or Kentucky. and spent the summer describing soils. This led him to earn his Masters and PhD from the University of Arizona in Soils, Water and Environmental Science.

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From the kudzu covered hills of eastern Kentucky to the honeysuckle that plagues backyards, plants and animals thataren’tsupposedtobehereareubiquitousacrosstheUS. What counts as an invasive species, how did they get here, how harmful are they, and what can be done about them? The National Wildlife Federation defines invasive species as, “any kind of living organism that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm.”. We carry seeds on our boots and clothes when we travel. Planes, trains, and boats carry hitchhiking plants and animals long distances in cargo holds, landing gear, or even potting soil. Many invasive plants got a foothold as ornamentals, and are still sold around the country in garden stores. Occasionally, people even release exotic pets (e.g. Burmese pythons, koi, parakeets) into the wild when they are no longer wanted. Some species are introduced by humans to take care of pests or, in some cruelly ironic cases, other invasive species. Whatever the case, these species were brought to an area they were previously not found in. Many invasive species thrive in their new homes because they find suitable living conditions and no predators or competitors to combat them.

and endangering the wildlife that relied on the native vegetation. In addition, invasive predators can be a major threat to wildlife. Outdoor cats may kill up to 1billion birds a year and have contributed to the extinction of 63 species of birdandsmallmammals.Allhopeisnotlost,though.There’s plenty you can do to stop the spread of invasive species! Your role simply starts at being more aware. When you buy plants for your garden, be sure to pick native plants. Additionally, make sure you thoroughly clean your boots and clothes after a hike to get rid of any seeds that may have caught a ride. When it comes to pets, keep them inside! Letting Mittens outside may seem like the right thing to do for your furry friend, but it’s incredibly harmful in the long run (and dangerous for Mittens too). If you want to be even more proactive, you can volunteer to remove invasive species in your area.

Invasive species often flourish because they lack natural control. For example, feral hogs and asian carp populations have exploded because they have no North American predators (besides humans). Buckthorn, an invasive shrub that plagues northeastern North America is unappealing and difficult to digest for local herbivores. Honeysuckle releases chemicals into the soil that prevent other plants from growing around it. Invasive species present a problem for native species that must compete for resources. For example, kudzu (a creeping vine introduced from Japan for the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition) can completely take over an area, shading out other species and even changing the soil chemistry through nitrogen fixing. Kudzu erases native biodiversity, replacing it with a monoculture 10 NRES Newsletter

Shannon McCall in the middle of Amur honeysuckle removal Graphics to the right supplied by Julia Maugans Above photo courtesy of Shannon McCall


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The Wildlife Biology and Management Minor (Wildlife Minor) is one of the most recent additions to the plethora of minor choices available to UK students. If you want to work with animals, manage game, or are just curious about wildlife, this minor is for you. After completing this minor, you will have satisfied many of the requirements for becoming a Certified Wildlife Biologist recognized by The Wildlife Society, a professional organization committed to conservation and management of wildlife. The University of Kentucky Wildlife Minor requires a minimum of 21 credit hours, many of which are included in the NRES cirriculum. The Field & Lab ASD, Conservation Biology ESEA, and Wildlife Ecology and Management ESEA are particullarly good focus areas for studnets wnating to complete this minor. For more information visit https://forestry.ca.uky.edu/wildlife-minor to learn more about the Minor.

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LARRY GRABAU Our program is successful because of the diverse students and faculty who dedicate themselves to it. Our new Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), Dr. Larry Grabau, is no exception. The DUS pairs studnets with an academic advisor, manages course substitutions, serves on the NRES Steering Comittee, and leads cirriculum management. There is no better position for someone like Dr. Grabau, who can use his left brain analytical skills to pair students with advisors and his right brain creativity in the outdoors. He earned his undergraduate degrees in Animal Science and Agronomy and later attended graduate school at the University of Missouri for Crop Sciences. Grabau said he always wanted to teach, so following graduate school he eventually found himself a job at UK within the NRES program. He has taught many plant and soil science (PLS) courses, Capstone, and is currently leading the internship/research courses. He is a “kindred spirit” to those who have an affinity for the outdoors, especially those who enjoy a good bike ride. Grabau’s love for education and the outdoors makes him invaluable as our new DUS. Being extremely well versed in animal sciences and agronomy, he realizes that he doesn’t need to be all knowing about Salamanders or environmental policy. For students that do want that, he will help them find their placement and allow them to grow with the help of their advisors.

CHRIS MATOCHA “Align your passion with a purpose” is UK soil science professor and NRES steering committee chair Dr. Chris Matocha’s advice to students, and his life motto. By applying this philosophy to his own life, he has become a groundbreaking soil science researcher and esteemed educatior. Dr. Matocha’s love of science started as a young boy growing up on a Texas farm; however, his love of soils started as an undergrad at Texas A&M in his field courses. Dr. Matocha earned his PhD at the University of Delaware in Soil Science. As the NRES Steering Comittee Chair Dr. Matocha represents and advocates for the program to the College Dean, Associate Dean of Instruction, affliated department chairs and beyond. Dr. Matocha also helps to maintain the integrity of the academic program inclduing budgets, reporting and assessment. He stepped into the role of NRES Chair because he belives “the interdisciplinary training of undergraduate students is necessary to help solve complex environmentally-related problems, which are increasing at various scales”. Dr. Matocha’s vision for the future of NRES is to build on the solid foundation laid down by our faculty to leverage the program’s interdisciplinary nature to assist students of all backgrounds in aligning their passion for the environment with a sense of purpose.

Graphics to the left, from left Ashley Ginsburg with a baby caiman, Ashlie Pool with a hellbender, Mariah Lewis with a baby turtle. All pictures supplied by Steve Price.

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18% 18%

Field andField and Lab Analysis Lab Analysis


Environmental Education

Environmen Environmental Policy tal Geospatial Education






Environmen tal Policy




Conservation Biology

3% Forestry


Human Dimesions


Water Resources Wildlife Management 6% 16%

Earth System Sciences


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Global Sustainable Food Systems



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“I’ve gone through a lot with my health since I came to college. Since I switched to NRES as my major I feel like it’s what I was meant to do and I’m much more happy!” - Hannah Hamm “A program with real impact on the world where I can choose a path and classesw I am interested in to better myself and those around me.” - James Worthington “The program is significant for me because this field provides a pathway in achieving my unique career goal: becoming a pioneer in extraterrestrial biological research”- Jake Brannon

Alumni “The flexibility of the program to meet my interests and the repeat professors for multiple classes gave me the small-school experience I desired while having the opportunities of a big university.”- Sandra Broadus “I’m an alumni now but I still have a great relationship with my former professors. I don’t know of many alumni from other degree programs that can say the same thing!” - Sophie Beavin “NRES is educating the next generation of environmental professionals.”- Alex Eberle

Faculty “As a faculty member, the program is important to me because I enjoy working with the high-caliber students that it attracts and also because I feel that I am contributing something to the “higher cause” of environmental protection and natural resource conservation.” - Jack Schieffer “I’m excited to work with young people in an interdisciplinary environmental program because that is the approach that will enable us to solve contemporary problems.” - Mary Arthur “The program’s “attitude” centers around growth and development--meeting students where they are and helping them find their way on their journeys in the environmental landscape.” - Larry Grabau SPRING 2021 14 SPRING 2021 15



Pictured from left to right: Dr. Kevin Yeager, Department of Earth and Environmental Science; Dr. Chris Barton, Department of Forestry; Dr. Mary Arthur, Chair, Department of Forestry; Dr. Chris Shepard, Department of Plant and Soil Science; Dr. Brian Lee, DUS, Department of Landscape Architecture; Dr. Chris Sass, Department of Landscape Architecture; Robert Paratley, Department of Forestry; Sandra Broadus, NRES alumna, Alternative Transportation Services; Dr. Chris Matocha, Department of Plant and Soil Science; Dr. Dave McNear, Department of Plant and Soil Science. Not pictured: Dr. Steve Price, Department of Forestry; Dr. Jack Schieffer, Department of Agricultural Economics; Dr. Lynn Roche Phillips, Department of Geography. The Steering Committee oversees all aspects of the NRES program including advising students, refining and revising the curriculum, and outreach and promotion.


Costa Rica Trip July 26-Aug 9 Summer Session ends Aug 11 Fall Semester begines Aug 23 Tree Week Oct 9-16

HAVE IDEAS FOR FUTURE STORIES? If you have news, comments, or information you would like to see included in the newsletter, please email adia.sovie@ uky.edu. We aim to keep you informed of our activities and engaged in the success of our current students and alumni.

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HELP NRES CONTINUE HELPING STUDENTS ON THEIR PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS! NRES is seeking donations to fund student scholarships. Donations can be accepted to the NRES Enrichment Fund or to the Chase Parker Powell scholarship fund. If you wish to donate, please contact Adia Sovie at adia.sovie@uky.edu


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