• Heather Alexander

    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.

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  • Ali Paulson

    Ali Paulson

    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.


    Twitter: @paulson_ali
  • Caleb Goldsmith

    Caleb Goldsmith

    Caleb is a native of Blacksburg, VA and joined the lab as an M.S. student in August 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 Woodard

    Shawn Woodard

    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.


Undergraduate Research Scholars

  • Rachel Nation

    Rachel Nation

    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 Dickie

    Anna Dickie

    Anna grew up in the small town of Dalton in the mountains of northwest Georgia. 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.


Past Lab Members

  • Jennifer McDaniel

    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

    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

    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. In 2019 she embarked upon an Integrative Conservation Ph.D. program in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia.


  • Emily Babl

    Emily Babl - M.S. 2018

    Emily completed her Master's degree in Forest Resources at Mississippi State University in 2018.


  • Brian Izbicki

    Brian Izbicki - M.S. 2018

    Brian completed his Master's degree in Forest Resources 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

    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.


  • Homero Pena

    Homero Pena - M.S. 2017

    Homero completed his Master's degree in Forest Resources at Mississippi State University in 2017. He is currently working as a field biologist in Missouri.


  • Alison Shepherd

    Alison Shepherd - M.S. 2016

    Alison is a Conservation Officer (Game Warden) in New Jersey. She is also currently in the police academy, and will be on the marine unit working in Delaware Bay and the Atlantic when she finishes her training. As her job encompasses both state and federal work, her duties include commercial and offshore work as well as state regulation.


  • Soraya Delgado

    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

    Parker Watson - M.S. 2016

    Parker is currently a Silvicultural and Urban Forestry Technician with the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands in Anchorage, Alaska. His duties include manual chainsaw labor, data collection, GIS analysis, and writing.


  • Eric Verderber

    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

    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

    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 is currently the Assistant Property Manager of Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area in southern Indiana, where she manages 4,000 acres of river and bottomland hardwoods.


  • Aaron White

    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.