UNCP students learn to do field research


Over the next two weeks from May 10 - 21, 12 undergraduate students from four North Carolina institutions will be trained in remote sensing, GIS and field methods at Appalachian State University (ASU).

 environmental science

UNCP students involved in the project are from left: Zach Barthel, Caleb Sutto, and Doshie Smith

Three UNC Pembroke students and UNCP professor Dr. Leon Jernigan, an environmental biologist, are participating in the program, which is being made possible through the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) SEEDS program and funding from National Science Foundation’s Research Initiation Grant to Broaden Participation.

Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), Livingstone College (LC), UNCP and Western Carolina University (WCU) are participating in the program.

Students will participate in real live research on secondary ecosystem succession or the recovery of ecosystems after disturbance. In North Carolina and across much of the Southeast, abandoned farmlands are reverting back to secondary forests. 

As they grow, these forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting carbon dioxide released by human activities. The team will combine existing data, collected by satellites and aircraft, with their own ground-based measurements from forests in different stages of recovery to better understand how the processes of succession and carbon dioxide uptake vary across North Carolina.

ASU professor and researcher Dr. Ryan Emanuel is leading the program.

“I am excited about the opportunity to work with students from such a wide range of backgrounds,” Dr. Emanuel said. “Students will learn how to work together toward a common goal and how to perform together with a common vision, much like how professional research teams operate,” he said.

After two weeks of intensive training with state-of-the-art field research equipment, each of the four participating campuses will in turn conduct field assessments at predetermined sites near their home campuses over the course of the academic year.

“What is unique about this project is the year-long relationship with the students and their advisors,” said Dr. Emanuel.

SEEDS will continue to provide support to the four teams through monthly webinars and through the nation-wide SEEDS network.

Students will also benefit from faculty advisers Dr. Joseph Fail (JCSU), Dr. Sashi Sabaratnam (LC), Dr. Jernigan and Brian Kloeppel (WCU), who bring wide ecological and forestry expertise to the project. The faculty advisers will engage in discussion and research results throughout the year.

For more information, contact Teresa Mourad, Director of Education and Diversity Programs, Ecological Society of America at 202.833.8773, ext. 234.