Mississippi’s natural resources help build and power our communities by providing lumber and abundant energy at an affordable cost. In fact, in its 2016 Global Petroleum Survey, the Fraser Institute ranked Mississippi eighth among the most attractive jurisdictions for upstream petroleum investment.
Protecting these resources and utilizing them in the most efficient and effective manner requires research and education. Mississippi Public Universities are stepping up to the plate to provide both.
The College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University provides the only 4-year degree programs in forestry, natural resource and environmental conservation, sustainable bioproducts, and wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture. The award-winning student body includes the MSU student chapter of the Society of American Foresters, a professional student organization that has been ranked in the top three nationally for the last 18 years. Other student organizations that continually receive top ratings include the MSU student chapter of The Wildlife Society, Ducks Unlimited Bulldog Chapter, the number one collegiate chapter in the state for the last four years, and one of the top ranked Bass Fishing Clubs in the nation.
Students in the College of Forest Resources conduct research and participate in professional experience. Each year, MSU students are selected to participate in the William A. Demmer Scholars Program, a program that provides internships and work with federal agencies and non-governmental organizations that focus on natural resources. The College of Forest Resources alumni serve throughout the nation as heads of corporations and leaders in state and federal government agencies. Tony Tooke, the new U.S. Forest Chief is an alumnus of the MSU College of Forest Resources.
Offering one of a few hands-on field experiences for students, the College of Forest Resources has over 23,619 of forestland in the MSU Bulldog Forest for teaching, research and demonstration. This land is located in 28 properties throughout the state of Mississippi.
The Forest and Wildlife Research Center is the research arm of the College of Forest Resources. The Forest and Wildlife Research Center (FWRC) expands through research the fundamental and applied knowledge upon which forestry, forest products and wildlife and fisheries disciplines are based. The FWRC assists in conserving, developing and utilizing the forest, forest products, wildlife and fisheries resources of Mississippi and the world. The FWRC is the only natural resources research program in the state of Mississippi and serves as the research arm for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Mississippi’s forest and forest products industries are a $12.79 billion dollar industry. Timber is the second largest commodity in the state. Providing relevant and timely research to address the needs of landowners, biologists and industry is a priority within the Forest and Wildlife Research Center. Research funding in the FWRC supports 47 scientists working on an average of 300 projects annually.
In forestry, scientists have expanded forest-based industry through the development of forest inventory software. FWRC scientists were the first in the nation to develop a comprehensive, spatially-explicit inventory of forest resources in the state. A forest products/bio-energy mill location and decision support system based on county-level forest inventory and geo-spatial information has been developed and used by numerous industries desiring to locate to Mississippi. Mississippi is rich in natural resources and companies choose to locate to the state based on the availability of these abundant resources.
Mississippi is ranked as one of the top five places in the U.S. for biomass by Forbes magazine. Scientists continue to expand the software to include socio-economic factors, growth and drain estimates, ownership patterns and a transportation network. The Department of Forestry conducts research to sustainably manage and utilize forest resources. This includes developing new practices to expand the growth of timber resources. The department actively works with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service, forest industry, and other universities to reduce risk of insect, disease, and natural disasters. The department also studies the effect of timberlands on carbon sequestration, water quality, alternative plantings, and wildlife habitat.
In wildlife and fisheries, scientists are tackling the growing human-wildlife conflict and economic impact of wildlife damage. In the U.S., wild pigs are non-native, invasive pests that pose a significant threat to agriculture, forestry, ecosystems, watersheds, native plant and animal communities and human health. Economic impacts of wild hog damage in the U.S. have been estimated at $1.5 billion/year. Wild pigs are host to at least 7 economically important livestock diseases and vectors of 9 zoonotic diseases of human health concern. Research is ongoing to quantify rate of range expansion, economic impacts and effective control methods to educate landowners, natural resource professionals and policymakers on the negative impact of wild pigs and inform local, state and national policy.
As the research arm of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, FWRC scientists monitor the state’s wildlife and fisheries populations. As issues arise, scientists offer solutions to sustain populations or in some cases, scientists recommend changes in hunting to deter some invasive species. The goal of FWRC scientists is to manage wildlife and fishery resources for the betterment of the state, region and nation. Scientists in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture have an international reputation for expertise on a variety of game species including white-tailed deer, turkey and bobwhite quail. Research is also conducted on game and nongame species; ecology; wildlife diseases; endangered species conservation; ecological restoration; invasive species management; habitat reclamation, restoration, and management; conservation education; human dimensions; geospatial technologies in wildlife and fisheries sciences; landscape ecology; and wildlife and fish recreation.
In sustainable bioproducts, scientists are finding new uses for wood resources including small-diameter wood from first thinnings of pine plantations. From environmental mats to composite lumber, scientists are finding new uses for wood which expand its service life and improve economic opportunities for Mississippi landowners. FWRC scientists are leaders in the development of bio-fuel from wood products. The FWRC is working to develop a marketable transportation fuel from blends of upgraded bio-oil and petroleum fuels. Scientists are working on a southern yellow pine strength and stiffness project to increase the use of southern yellow pine in building construction. Scientists are also working on the use of timber in large construction projects and southern climatic stresses on these products.
At the University of Mississippi Field Station, faculty members conduct a broad range of studies related to Mississippi’s forests and wetlands, from the potential healing properties of plants to turkey behavior, fish growth and reproduction, controlling invasive insect species and mitigating pesticide run-off from farm fields. The 740-acre facility includes wetlands, grasslands and closed-canopy forests. The forested stands are mixtures of shortleaf pine and oaks with loblolly pine, sweetgum, red maple, winged elms and black gum. An aviary for study of wild turkeys is located in a remote area. More than 200 experimental ponds provide opportunities for controlled experiments and large-scale projects.
Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi are two members of a consortium of four universities recently awarded a National Science Foundation EPSCoR Track II grant. Jackson State serves as the lead institution for the four-year project, with the University of Delaware and the University of Wyoming rounding out the four participating universities. The project seeks novel and cost-effective approaches to mitigate climate change, improve energy efficiency and reduce pollutants in water and air, which are among the most significant challenges facing the world.
Delta State University encourages stewardship through the student chapter of The Wildlife Society, an international organization serving wildlife professionals in all areas of wildlife conservation and resource management that was founded in 1937. With a goal of excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education, Dr. Ali Reza, advisor for the Environmental Science Wildlife Management Concentration, and students in the Environmental Science/Wildlife major worked to establish a student chapter of the society on the campus in Cleveland. The DSU student chapter of the Wildlife Society was approved on April 26, 2013 by the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society.
Video on the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University: https://youtu.be/QHlNTL7BlVc
More information on the University of Mississippi Field Station: http://fieldstation.olemiss.edu
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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.