Native American students chosen for research program

Pictured are Ray Gutteriez and Jessica Lackey, interns in last year’s program. ©USFS

The Native American Research Assistantship Program begins its second year, a program made possible by the Premier Partner relationship between the U.S. Forest Service and The Wildlife Society. The Research Assistantship program provides valuable knowledge to Native American students who are interested in becoming wildlife biologists. The program allows students to learn and gain beneficial hands-on experience while working with a wildlife professional on the approved project.

The USFS has worked closely with TWS to develop mentoring opportunities for Native American students to work as research assistants with USFS Research & Development (R&D) scientists. R&D funding will be used to provide living stipends for upper-level undergraduate (juniors or seniors) and graduate students during their mentorship, while TWS will provide administrative support and coordination.

Five students have been selected for research assistantships, which will last for approximately 12-14 weeks, beginning in late spring of 2016 and running through late summer of 2016.

Bryan Begay, a student at Northern Arizona University, will be mentored by Deahn Donner, a project leader and landscape ecologist at the Northern Research Station. Their project topic will be “Monitoring bat populations and sharp tail grouse habitat during a barrens ecosystem restoration.”

Elisha Flores, a student at UC Berkeley, and Chase Voirin, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, will be mentored by Serra Hoagland, a biological scientist at the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center. Their project topic will be “Assessment of wildfire risk in treated and untreated Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) territories on tribal lands.”

La’akea Low, a student at the University of Hawai’i – Maui College, will be mentored by Richard Mackenzie, an aquatic ecologist at the Pacific Southwest Research Station. Their project topic will be “Climate change impacts on recruitment/ dispersal of native Hawaiian stream fauna.”

Paden Alexander, a student at the University of Montana, will be mentored by Mike Schwartz, Director at the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation. Their project topic will be “Combining Cutting-Edge Genetic Technology and Traditional Ecological Knowledge to Assess and Monitor Wolverine Distribution on the Flathead Indian Reservation.”

“Wildlife are not just names on lists of taxonomic classifications. They are our relatives with whom we live and from whom we learn. Students from tribal communities are born into that way of thinking and are enriched by those relationships. My hope is that our educational system allows for indigenous perspectives to blossom and that future biological scientists approach their work with the most intense intelligence and the most reverent demeanor. We need mind, heart and spirit in biology,” said Fred Clark, Director of the Office of Tribal Relations at the U.S. Forest Service.

TWS Native People’s Wildlife Management Working Group also provides educational and networking opportunities for Native Americans. They are very thankful for the support of Native American students interested in wildlife biology and management. For more information on the working group click here.

As a Premier Partner of TWS, the USFS also provides funding for travel grants to Native American students to attend the TWS Annual Conference. The USFS and TWS would like to extend their thanks to the scientists who submitted project proposals and to the individuals who will be mentoring the five students in this year’s program.