Thanks to a pair of grants from Weyerhaeuser, Louisiana Tech’s Forestry program just got an upgrade and became more easily mobile.
The Weyerhaeuser Community Grants were awarded to the Forestry Program in December 2019 for the creation of a mobile classroom. Despite the pandemic that altered travel last year and an ice storm in February of this year that cancelled what was to be the classroom’s inaugural field trip, the classroom, equipment, trailer, and field supplies are now a reality and very much in use.
“This was the biggest summer class (40 students) we’ve had in decades, and it would not have been possible to pull it off without being able to make use of these new resources,” said Dr. Joshua Adams, Associate Professor in the School of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry in Tech’s College of Applied and Natural Sciences.
The 7×12-foot trailer is wrapped with a custom-made overlay designed by Elena Parker of Tech’s University Communications that features both the Forestry Program (“The future is GROWING”) and Weyerhaeuser.
“Weyerhaeuser deeply appreciates Louisiana Tech’s work and long partnership in preparing students for great careers in industrial forestry,” said Gary Hill, who leads Weyerhaeuser’s Ruston office. “The trailer and supplies will strengthen the ability of the University in providing the latest technology for field exercises.”
The College and Program also got a new truck using a combination of teaching and research funds. It’s been used virtually every day this summer to haul professors, supplies, and water. Twice it was used to haul the trailer, which was loaded down with a week’s-worth of supplies for all the students — which numbered around 40 for overnight trips — three faculty, plus all their clothes, books, laptops, and field supplies.
“The first trip was to the Buffalo National River in Newton County, Arkansas,” Adams said, “and the second trip was down to the Florien area at the Louisiana Ecological Forestry Center (formally the Hodges Garden State Park). On that trip we used it for all the students to bring their week’s-worth of luggage, fishing, and recreational equipment, and we outfitted it with our fire gear as we were hoping to be involved with conducting a prescribed fire but were thwarted by poor weather.”
Dr. Gordon Holley, Professor in Tech’s Department of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry, Associate Professor Dr. Heidi Adams, and Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Sims also traveled and taught during these off-campus summer field sessions.
To illustrate the dedication that fuels the program, last summer Holley and Joshua Adams co-taught classes for four weeks in a camp altered by the pandemic. It was mostly day trips beginning in mid-July. The final week, the 27 students in the camp were able to take four tours on consecutive days of various companies, governmental agencies, or with individuals to see how the things they’d been practicing were actually implemented. The tours were all-day events, and most included five-to-seven stops at various forests. The final three days was a cumulative team-based field project that tested the students’ ability to develop comprehensive inventory reports for a large acre forest.
“The students were very grateful to have the unique opportunity to have a face-to-face class and progress in their curricula,” Adams said, “It also serves as a full immersion program for the forestry field and builds a strong fraternal atmosphere among the students. Overall it went so much better than I expected with so many students, although it took Gordon and I longer than usual to recuperate.”
And because they adhered to all appropriate health protocols, all students and staff remained healthy.
The annual camps are highly noticed by companies who need to hire foresters who have gained the field experience. Tech’s was one of only two forestry programs in the country that had summer field sessions in 2020. The Forestry program is listed as No. 7 nationally and No. 1 in the South on Study.com’s 2021 rankings of The Best Bachelor Degree Programs in Forestry.
Now, as was the case this summer, students can benefit even more from a mobile classroom and the latest in tools and supplies. It is rare that Weyerhaeuser grants such special large, one-time grant awards, but the company saw it as being key to an important community initiative that would help make the University, and therefore the Ruston community and area, better.
“Weyerhaeuser and its predecessor companies have looked and will continue to look to Louisiana Tech to provide forestry professionals who are prepared to quickly contribute to our success,” Hill said. “In our North Louisiana and Southeast Arkansas regions, Tech graduates are the majority of our team.”
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