Heather D. Alexander
Dr. Heather D. Alexander is a forest and fire ecologist in the Department of Forestry at Mississippi State University. Her research focuses on understanding ecosystem vulnerability in the face of climate change and altered disturbance regimes, especially fire.
Dr. Alexander’s research program uses field-based experimental manipulations of environmental conditions and disturbance regimes to test hypotheses about the implications of changing forest communities on ecosystem function.
Her research includes the effects of wildfire severity on forest structure and carbon dynamics in the Siberian Arctic, the implications of fire suppression and ‘mesophication’ on oak forests of the eastern U.S., impacts of shrub encroachment into grasslands, and the interaction of abiotic and biotic stressors on restoration success in semi-arid thornscrub forests.
Dr. Alison Paulson (Ali) is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Forestry at Mississippi State University. She is a forest ecologist and botanist with particular interests in disturbance ecology, community ecology, and conservation biology.
Ali received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Washington and her Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a Ph.D. student, Ali studied shifts in forest and understory composition resulting from land use and land cover change, deer herbivory, fire suppression, and climate change.
Ali’s postdoctoral research focuses on post-fire forest regeneration, plant community succession, and associated carbon dynamics in the larch (Larix cajanderi) forests of the Siberian Arctic.
Eric is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Forestry and the Operations Director for the Overton Park Conservancy. He is researching urban forest dynamics with his primary site at the Old Forest State Natural Area in Memphis, TN. Eric earned his B.S. in Forestry from Colorado State University and his M.S. in Forestry from Mississippi State University. He is a SAF Certified Forester and an ISA Certified Arborist. He lives in Memphis with his wife and son.
Caleb is a native of Blacksburg, VA and joined the lab as an M.S. student in Fall 2019. He is researching the effects of dormant season fires on hardwood species at Spirit Hill Farm in northern Mississippi and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in western Kentucky.
Shawn is a M.S. student in the Department of Forestry. His research at Spirit Hill Farm in northern Mississippi aims to determine how fuel bed characteristics (such as bulk density, packing ratio, and loads) respond to season of burn and deer herbivory. He is also assessing how prescribed fires alter leaf litter composition, potentially shifting fuel bed representation towards upland or mesophytic species.
Seth is an M.S. student whose research deals with the history and role of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) forest certification system in the southeastern United States. He is examining how the SFI came to fruition, how and where it is being used, and the level of compliance by those who are certified under the SFI. He will also identify the benefits that stem from being certified under the SFI, and the economics of said forest certification.
Undergraduate Research Scholars
Rachel is an undergraduate student majoring in Forestry with a concentration in Wildlife Management. She is from Milton, Florida.
She is currently conducting research through the College of Forest Resources Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, in which she is exploring the effects of fire severity on acorn germination and early growth. She is also studying the decomposition rates of different species within an upland oak forest system. In the future, she hopes to promote the implementation of proper forestry practices and good stewardship of the natural forest environment. Expected graduation December 2020.
Anna grew up in the small town of Dalton in the mountains of northwest Georgia, and joined the Fire Ecology lab as an undergraduate research assistant in Fall 2019. A junior majoring in Forestry with a concentration in Wildlife Management and a lifelong lover of animals, she discovered her passion for the intricacies of wildlife ecology while still in high school. Her research in the Fire Ecology Lab concerns patterns of tree growth in the Siberian Arctic in response to wildfire and climate. She hopes to put her experience and education to use working for the National Parks Service one day.
Sam hails from Tuscaloosa, AL, and is a junior majoring in Forestry with a concentration in Wildlife Management. She discovered a love of the outdoors and an interest in the workings of the world around her while taking zoology and environmental science courses in high school. Since starting her forestry coursework, she has developed an interest in the statistics associated with natural resource management. Sam joined the lab in Fall 2019 as an undergraduate research assistant. She hopes the experience she has gained at MSU will allow her to pursue a career in forest ecology or habitat management for protected species.
Past Lab Members
Jennifer McDaniel - M.S. 2019
Jennifer is a native of Waynesboro, Georgia and earned a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia. She is currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, where she studies mechanistic fire effects and dose-dependent heat impacts on tree physiology to identify tissue-specific mortality thresholds.
Josh Bankston - M.S. 2019
Josh is a Mississippi native who moved to Starkville to earn a Bachelor's degree in Forest Management at Mississippi State University. He is currently working as a natural resource consultant with Mason, Bruce, and Girard, Inc. in Portland, OR.
Rachel Arney - Research Associate 2017-2019
Rachel received her Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from The University of Arizona and her M.S. in Biology from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
As a graduate student, shs created artificial coral structures to act as juvenile fish sampling devices and used SCUBA to collect data. She is a trained marine ecologist who has worked primarily with sea turtles in South Texas and the Caribbean.
As a Research Associate in the Fire Ecology Lab at MSU, Rachel worked on a joint project between MSU and the US Fish and Wildlife Service writing a national monitoring protocol for forested lands in the southeastern United States. Rachel is currently a PhD student in the Integrative Conservation and Geography programs at The University of Georgia. As a trained ecologist, she is now interested in combining natural and social sciences. Rachel is interested in scientific knowledge production along the U.S.-Mexico border and how modern-day post-colonial practice and discourse by scientific and academic institutions substantiate anti-immigrant rhetoric. She hopes to use political ecology and critical physical geography to understand how the natural sciences can better incorporate decolonial practices into praxis.
Alex Davis - B.S. 2019
Alex studied fuel composition and load changes following prescribed fire in oak forests for his undergraduate research. He is currently at Fort Leonard Wood training as an Army Engineer Officer. He helps to manage approximately 250,000 acres of primarily upland pine forests in central Arkansas. He engages with land owners and contractors and spends the majority of his time cruising timber, compiling forest growth data, and conducting prescribed burns.
Emily Babl - M.S. 2018
Emily completed her Master's degree in Forestry at Mississippi State University in 2018.
Brian Izbicki - M.S. 2018
Brian completed his Master's degree in Forestry at Mississippi State University in 2018. He is currently working on a Ph.D. at Northern Arizona University, where he studies forest and fire dynamics in Siberia.
Josh Byers - B.S. 2018
As an undergraduate researcher in the Fire Ecology lab, Josh investigated the role of fire in improving upland oak regeneration at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Kentucky. He is currently a soil conservation technician with the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service.
Homero Pena - M.S. 2017
Homero completed his Master's degree in Forestry at Mississippi State University in 2017. He is currently working as a field biologist in Missouri.
Alison (Shepherd) Sloan - M.S. 2016
Alison is a Conservation Police Officer (game warden) with New Jersey Fish and Wildlife. She works on the marine unit where she oversees both recreational and commercial harvest activity. Alison also participates in several recruiting and community outreach events as a representative of the agency.
Soraya Delgado - M.S. 2016
Soraya, a native of the coastal region of Ecuador, received a Master's degree in Biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2016. She is currently a Conservation Biologist and Environmental Educator, works as a Research Assistant at UTRGV, and is a board member for a small NGO in South America called Great Wilderness.
Parker Watson - M.S. 2016
Parker spent several years working in various locations as a restoration ecologist and biologist after graduating with an M.S. in Biology in December 2015. Parker is currently pursuing an M.A. in English at San Diego State University where he also works as a full-time employee.
Eric Verderber - M.S. 2015
After completing his Master's degree at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2015, Eric worked as a Wildlife Refuge Specialist for the South Texas Refuge Complex. He led field operations, planting site preparation, and post-planting management in their habitat restoration program.
Jennifer Vela - M.S. 2015
Jen teaches AP Environmental Science and AP Biology at Harlingen High School South in Texas. She provides her students preparation for their respective National Advanced Placement Exams, for which they receive college credit, at the end of each year.
Krysten Dick - M.S.2015
As a Master’s student in Dr. Alexander's lab at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Krysten discovered that she wanted to be a wildland firefighter. Post-graduation, she traveled throughout the United States working on an engine crew. Krysten was the Assistant Property Manager of Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area in southern Indiana, but is now the lead range technician for the Morris Wetland Management District in western Minnesota.
Aaron White - M.S. 2015
Aaron's research in Dr. Alexander's lab at The University of Texas Rio Grade Valley focused on plant and animal interactions in a boreal forest ecosystem in far northeastern Russia. He studied animal use in larch stands of varying ages and densities, animal disturbance on the soil organic layer, and the effects of that disturbance on underlying soil conditions. He is currently pursuing a J.D. with an Environmental Law focus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, MN.