From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice
Faculty Feature: Dr. Mike Tyree: Managing Louisiana's Forest Ecosystems
Mike Tyree was born in Virginia and grew up in south-central Pennsylvania. Living among the Appalachians, Mike had plenty to keep him occupied. “After admitting to myself that I was not going to make a career from rock climbing,” Mike said, “which was also strongly emphasized by my then future wife Jennifer, I decided to attend Penn State to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Forest Science.” As an undergraduate, Mike had the opportunity to become involved in a couple of research projects as a research assistant. This experience fostered his desire to question, understand, and appreciate the complexities of forested ecosystems, and motivated him to work toward an advanced degree in Forestry. While pursuing a Masters and Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, Mike focused his studies in the area of physiological ecology and specifically the effects of management and climate change on forested ecosystem carbon cycling. In January of 2009, Mike and his wife Jennifer moved to Ruston and immediately fell in love with Louisiana’s diverse ecosystems, friendly people, and especially the mild winters. While at Louisiana Tech, Mike has been able to expand his research interests to include the role of short-rotation woody crop management on ecosystem services such as potential carbon sequestration, nutrient retention, and renewable energy production. Mike has also become involved in a number of experiments focused on the impacts of climate change on leaf metabolism in cottonwood and black willow. Specifically, this research seeks to determine if these plants are able to adjust their leaf metabolism to maximize carbon-use efficiency. In another project, Mike is working with the US Forest Service to determine the role of fire for longleaf pine restoration and the recovery mechanisms used by young plants to recover from significant leaf scorch. All these avenues of research utilize both graduate and undergraduate student researchers. Mike noted, “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with these students and helping to foster the same drive to question and understand that I was given.” Mike considers teaching to be his number one priority and among his favorite courses are the plant identification labs. These labs are conducted entirely outdoors in different forested ecosystems and are designed to teach students to identify approximately 130 native and introduced trees, shrubs, and vines found throughout northern Louisiana. This two-part course spans the fall and winter quarters, and allows students to learn to identify plants using leaves, twigs, bark, buds, flowers, and form. Although this course is one of the more challenging courses Mike teaches, it allows for very close interaction with the students in a more informal setting than other classes. And that suits Mike just fine. “Perhaps the best part of teaching outdoor classes is that it allows for plenty of opportunities to adapt the class to the students’ needs and interests by talking about various ecological oddities, uses, interesting facts about these plants.” Mike’s wife, Jennifer, is an administrative assistant in Tech’s Office of Testing and Disability Services. When Mike tells her that he is ‘headed out to the woods’, Jennifer knows that he is going to do the work that he loves to do.