News: Agreement with university helps Tulsa district with wildlife management
Story by Nathan Herring
EUFAULA, Okla — A new agreement between Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa district will allow for more efficient and expanded wildlife management practices to be studied and implemented at Corps projects.
Students from NSU are currently studying and analyzing food plots at Eufaula Lake, although the partnership may be expanded to other Corps lakes in the future.
Although the project is still in its early stages, students are already hard at work. Recently, Dr. Amy Smith, a professor at NSU, brought 10 students from her Principles of Fish and Wildlife Management class to Eufaula Lake to collect data on food plots that the Corps plants to attract deer.
“With limited staff and funds, it is important for the Corps to use their limited resources effectively,” said Smith. “Our students are studying the effectiveness of food plots and will be providing recommendations on how the Corps can provide effective food plots in a manner that is an efficient use of time and money.”
The students are analyzing the soil and the current plants in each food plot to make recommendations on which type of plants are being eaten and what type of plants are most suitable for the soil at each plot.
Once the research and sampling is completed the students will write a wildlife management plan that will be used by the Eufaula project staff.
Currently, staff plant mostly annuals in 14 food plots that equal about 10 acres at the project, but the students are looking at the possibility of planting perennials, said Stacy Dunkin, park ranger and Corps liaison for the partnership.
“With the use of perennials, we could double our acreage of food plots because we wouldn’t have to go back and seed each year,” said Dunkin. “This would provide new plots and in turn more hunting opportunities throughout the project.”
Dunkin was an NSU graduate and worked with Dr. Smith both as a student and post-graduation. He said they just started talking about the partnership one day and it led from there.
“It’s a true partnership because we had to find goals and objectives and we are looking for a true product in the end,” he said.
It’s that end product that that sets the Corps apart from other agencies, said Smith.
“Other agencies have allowed classes to collect data on their areas, but the Corps is the only one that has expressed a willingness to incorporate student research into their management practices,” she said. “An opportunity like this to problem solve under real-world conditions is invaluable for the students. It allows the students to do what we have studied in class”
The students agree that hands-on experience is important in the learning process.
“It’s like backing up a trailer,” said Josh Saldana, a senior fish and wildlife major. “It’s better doing it than someone just showing you.”
Christa Ogden, another senior fish and wildlife major, agrees.
“I’m much more of hands on learner. It helps to cement the ideas in my head and gives me experience,” she said.
In addition to the experience, it puts students in contact with potential employers and resource managers, Smith said.
“We get to expose students to our organization. It’s another opportunity for us to tell the Corps story,” Dunkin said. “It’s a win-win for everyone on many different levels.”