Native Americans to begin USFS projects this summer

A female Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) is mid-air between Elisha Flores (left) and Chase Voirin (right) on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, NM. Flores and Voirin participated in the 2016 Native American Research Assistantship program with Dr. Serra Hoagland, Liaison Officer (Biologist) at the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

The Native American Research Assistantship Program begins its third 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 and recent graduates who are interested in becoming wildlife biologists. The program allows these individuals 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 Americans 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 undergraduates, graduate students, and recent graduates during their mentorship, while TWS will provide administrative support and coordination.

Three individuals have been selected for research assistantships, which will last for approximately 12-14 weeks, beginning in late spring of 2017 and running through late summer of 2017.

Kelci Renshaw, a current student at Humboldt State University, will be mentored by Serra Hoagland, a Liaison Officer (Biologist) at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. Their project topic will be “Assessment of wildfire risk in treated and untreated Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) territories on tribal lands.”

Harlan Tso, a current student at Northern Arizona University, will be mentored by Teresa Lorenz, Research Wildlife Biologist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station. Their project topic will be “Space use, survival, and nesting ecology of avian cavity excavators in prescribed burns”.

Nekai Eversole, a recent graduate of Fort Lewis College, will be mentored by Deahn Donner, a project leader and research landscape ecologist at the Northern Research Station. Their project topic will be “Evaluating regional and landscape-scale movement patterns of wood turtles”.

“More and more our agency recognizes the value of traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous land stewardship as a necessary component of natural resources management,” said Dr. Carlos Rodriguez Franco, Deputy Chief of U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. “The Native American Research Assistantship Program trains the next generation of Native Americans as natural resource scientists, as it also helps us maintain our trust responsibility and service with Native American tribes through collaborative and participatory research approaches.”

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 three Native Americans in this year’s program.