A Changing World Demands Sustaining Our Natural Resources

The School of Renewable Natural Resources has a long history of natural resource teaching, research and outreach, beginning with the first forestry class taught in 1911. Subsequently, the original Department of Forestry evolved from the School of Forestry and Wildlife Management, to the School of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, and finally the current School of Renewable Natural Resources. The name changes reflect historic changes in the program from a forestry program to a comprehensive program that supports the original intent but also encompasses wildlife conservation, fisheries, aquaculture, wetlands, watershed ecology, forest products, ecological restoration, forest enterprise and pre-veterinary wildlife medicine.

It is estimated that by 2050 a growing world population will necessitate a 70 percent increase above 2005 food production levels, thus putting tremendous pressure on water resources and our natural environments. Multidisciplinary approaches are needed to solve water needs for agriculture while sustaining fish, wildlife and timber resources along rivers and streams. Furthermore, sea levels are expected to rise by up to 3 feet in the next century, and innovative approaches to marsh restoration and management are needed to support the seafood and wildlife associated with these wetlands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that there will be a 5 percent increase in job openings for food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environmental occupations between 2015 to 2020. The interdisciplinary nature of our school combined with the vast wetland, upland and agricultural resources in Louisiana provide an exceptional environment for training tomorrow’s local and global leaders, while sustaining Louisiana’s habitat-dependent economy and culture.

The LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources is internationally known for its interdisciplinary approach to natural resource conservation. Louisiana provides an unparalleled environment for training graduate and undergraduate students in a host of ecosystems. A variety of plant and animal habitats – including rivers, coastal marshes, pitcher plant bogs, agricultural wetlands and upland forests – dominate the Louisiana landscape. The Louisiana culture and economy are dependent on these habitat types that support diverse plant and animal populations. The school is recognized nationally and internationally for its expertise in ecology, management and conservation. Faculty work locally, nationally and internationally on a wide range of conservation and management issues with partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nature Conservancy, International Crane Foundation, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and numerous other state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and industry. The global impact of our school is significant with faculty offering technical assistance in numerous countries, including China, Russia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Brazil and Russia. Researchers from Thailand, South Korea, China, Zambia, Brazil, Honduras and other countries visit our school for training.

Current research in the school includes a diversity of topics: value-added uses of forest products, including biomass; medicinal plants; conservation and management of game and nongame fisheries and wildlife species; control of feral hogs; management issues pertaining to hydrologically degrading forested and coastal wetlands; impacts of the BP oil spill on bird populations and conservation of endangered species; forestry management and stand dynamics, marketing, economics, biometrics, urban forestry and forest-related safety; global climate change; and fisheries and aquaculture nutrition, physiology, genetics and ecology

As a result of these research projects, faculty in the school have developed management plans to preserve Atchafalaya River basin habitats, advanced methods to restore coastal forests and coastal wetlands, increased waterfowl habitats, improved crab baits, elucidated game species ecology, identified the impacts of invasive species on native populations and developed wood-based artificial turf for sports fields. They have invented wood-based batteries, created wood-based drilling fluid additives (TigerBullets), used bio-based nanotechnology to create environmentally friendly products, developed a new way to analyze remote sensing data, and developed bioactive screening methods to assess medicinal plant viability for natural drug creation. They have also developed tree growth methods to maximize landowner profits, improved methods for forest inventory, enhanced land expectation value formulas to optimize forestry practices, and improved our understanding of conservation and biodiversity of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Diverse career options are available to graduates of our school. Careers in natural resources include education, technology, conservation, management, research and planning. Many of our students pursue careers with state agencies (Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture and Forestry), federal agencies, (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service), natural resource consulting groups, natural resource industry (Weyerhaeuser, International Paper) and nongovernmental organizations (Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited). We find that whichever career route our students take, they all want to make a difference in the world by managing, conserving and developing forestry, forest products, and wildlife and fisheries resources.

Allen Rutherford is director of the School of Renewable Natural Resources and associate dean of the College of Agriculture. He holds the Bryant A. Bateman Professorship in Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries.

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Derrel Wilright bands ducks in the Mississippi River as part of Bret Collier's wildlife management class. Photo by Bret Collier

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Luke Laborde (second from left), assistant professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, captures and bands ducks on the banks of the Mississippi River with a wildlife management class. Photo by Bret Collier

6/9/2017 3:36:22 PM
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