Bats and rats are just part of the job for Ashley Long. So are deer, feral hogs and different species of birds.
Long, a new faculty member in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, serves as the AgCenter state wildlife extension specialist and has an extensive research program.
A native of Wisconsin and Illinois, Long was turned on to wildlife conservation during her undergraduate years at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.
“During undergrad, I took classes from an instructor who was very passionate about wildlife conservation and who made it a priority to get his students out in the field,” Long said. “He showed me how interesting and how much fun it could be to learn about wildlife.”
Long got her Ph.D. in wildlife and fisheries science from Texas A&M and worked as a research scientist at the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute before coming to the AgCenter in early 2018.
As the wildlife specialist, Long is responsible for public outreach and education. Two topics she has worked on include feral hog management and education on chronic wasting disease in deer.
Included in her research responsibilities is a project that involves looking at the roosting habitats of bats across the state. She is partnering with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to learn more about their distribution in the state.
“Bats are essential to agricultural production from a pest management standpoint and are important to overall biodiversity,” she said.
She is working with an undergraduate student who will use acoustic monitoring to determine where bats are and the types of habitat they are using.
She is also working with Wildlife and Fisheries to conduct surveillance for white-nose syndrome, a disease that affects hibernating bats. The disease has been detected in states around Louisiana, but not yet in the state.
Another disease she is focusing on is leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can affect a range of mammals. She is partnering again with Wildlife and Fisheries to collect baseline data to see which species it is in and to what extent. Undergraduate students in the School of Renewable Natural Resources are helping to collect the data by capturing wildlife such as rats for blood testing.
Much of Long’s research involves birds. She is studying how forest stand type and age influences bird habitat, and a graduate student she is mentoring will look at grassland birds that winter in Louisiana.
She also is working with a post-doctoral researcher who uses geospatial analysis for habitat forecasting. Long said this could help with habitat management for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.
Long also teaches wildlife habitat management, but much of the learning happens outside of the classroom. She often takes her classes into the field like the instructor who influenced her.
She said mentors have made the difference in her career, and she hopes to do the same for her students.
“I have a lot of respect for the work they’ve done to advance wildlife conservation through their research, and they have built strong connections over the years with their students, their colleagues and the general public,” she said.
Tobie Blanchard is the assistant director of LSU AgCenter Communications and the communication coordinator of the LSU College of Agriculture.
(This article was published in the fall 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Long, a new AgCenter state wildlife specialist, bands rails at the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in Jennings, Louisiana.