Graduating senior: Natalee Yates

Hometown: Luray, Virginia
Major: Wildlife conservation

Main accomplishment: Getting involved with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service early in my college experience provided me with many opportunities and experiences. I was able to travel the country and work in National Wildlife Refuges in Mississippi, Minnesota, Florida, and South Dakota. I learned not only how wildlife differs across the country, but also different management styles, field techniques, and the variety of challenges that face wildlife professionals. I look forward to continuing my time with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and learning more about the wildlife conservation field.

Master’s student: Brian Parkhurst

Hometown: Blacksburg, Virginia
Major: Forestry

Research focus: My master’s research focused on the changes in forest soils associated with mechanical harvest operations. Conventional harvesting methods include the operation of heavy equipment, which can change the characteristics of forest soils, sometimes leading to changes in stand and site quality. Virginia Tech partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to create a test course associated with an active timber harvest. The course was used to compare a rubber-tired skidder to a tracked skidder and to test a new method of quantifying changes in soils using buried water-filled bulbs and pressure transducers. These sensors can be thought of measuring the “elasticity” of the soil; readings were compared with conventional soil measures to look for relationships. Traffic level, machine type, and ground cover type were also investigated. The sensors will be used in future research projects to aid in quantifying changes in forest soils.

Graduate student: Lindsey Rich

Hometown: Evergreen, Colorado
Major: Wildlife conservation

Research focus: My dissertation research evaluated the densities, distributions, and ecology of wildlife communities in northern Botswana, with a focus on carnivores. My field research entailed a multi-year camera trap survey in which I deployed 220 camera stations across a 1,000-square-kilometer area. I used the 16,000 photographic detections of mammals to estimate seasonal densities of seven carnivore species and distributions of 44 mammal species as well as to understand how environmental features and anthropogenic pressures are impacting wildlife communities. This research advances the field of population modeling by using a single survey to simultaneously assess multiple species, as compared to single species, and will help inform land use and land management policies in Botswana.