Written by Samantha Luitjens
The University of Alabama’s Student Chapter attended a field tour to learn about aquatic diversity and Best Management Practices with an overnight camping trip to build community within the Guild. Students attended presentations given by natural resources management professionals. Andy Scott, District Ranger on the Bankhead National Forest, gave the first presentation and discussed the history of Bankhead National Forest, as well as the forest restoration models they use in management. Andy’s comprehensive presentation provided information on the National Forest System and wilderness designation significance. Cal Johnson, Certified Fisheries Biologist at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, followed with a presentation on aquatic biodiversity, noting that Alabama has more fish species than any other state in the US! Cal discussed the importance of habitat diversity and highlighted the importance of following BMPs. The last presentation was provided by Brad Nail, Regional Forester with the Alabama Forestry Association, and he provided examples of BMPs and discussed cost share programs available to landowners.
With lush green trees, flowing rivers, and warm sunshine, the afternoon continued with a field tour. Cal displayed his work with fish monitoring using electrofishing equipment. Students assisted Cal with a fish inventory of a small stream. The tour continued as Andy illustrated the importance of prescribed fire as a tool for forest management with Blake Addison, Bankhead Timber Management Assistant. Andy offered much insight into how the US Forest Service operates, giving students a better understanding of how the government plays a role in forest management. The field tour ended with Brad showing a culvert that was not functioning properly and impaired the movement of aquatic organisms. Brad explained how culverts are a necessary part of societal infrastructure as well as ecosystem function and are a key component to natural resource management.
The evening was filled with a delicious baked potato bar, chili, and plenty of s’mores. 15 AL Student Chapter participants stayed in tents and hammocks at a group campsite on the Bankhead National Forest. Clear skies offered perfect stargazing, and friendly conversation about the day’s learning was shared over a toasty campfire. Students found it hard to say goodbye to the beautiful forest, and planning for future educational camping opportunities began on the trip back to campus.
We express sincere thanks to Dakota Wagner, Southeast Regional Coordinator, for organizing such a memorable, educational, and fun experience.