Spring 2011

[News]

Revitalizing Wildland Education

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE has awarded over $45,000 to Humboldt State’s Wildland Resources program to help recruit students, assess course materials and adopt new technologies.

HSU currently has the only undergraduate Wildland Resources degree program in the state.

The overall goal of the project is to push rangeland education into the future, says Susan Marshall, professor of Forestry and Wildland Resources at Humboldt State. HSU’s portion of the project will focus on recruitment and course assessment.

“Wildland” describes wide-open spaces, including meadows, prairies, deserts and tundra. Students who study these areas learn how to manage and conserve these important ecosystems and the services they offer.

Federal agencies that work with wildland, such as the U.S. Forest Service, predict that half of their workforce will retire in the next 5 to 10 years, creating an immense demand for qualified graduates. However, the project hopes to not only graduate students, but to give them a cutting-edge education.

“Our students get jobs,” Marshall says. “They’re in high demand and they have the skills, but we want to be even more progressive.” For Marshall, that means adopting technological advances to complement traditional teaching methods.

“Technology can do amazing things. With satellite data, you can get a really good idea of the effects of drought, for example. But it’s also essential to have people on the ground, who know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. Professional judgment based on experience is invaluable. The primary focus is to train highly competent professionals,” Marshall says.

In addition to revitalizing wildland resources education throughout the nation, Marshall sees the project as a way to strengthen the program at Humboldt State. “We intend to increase enrollment by 40 percent over the next five years with this boost from the USDA and collaboration with our sister institutions,” she says.

Humboldt County rancher Peter Bussman discusses grass quality with Wildland Resources students in Arcata Bottoms. Students will take samples and
analyze the grass for nutrient contents.