Master Naturalist Volunteers Participate in Hurricane Sandy Restoration and Monitoring Project

With support of an Engaged Learning Faculty Fellowship, Kristi Sullivan, Director of the New York Master Naturalist Volunteer Program, along with Meghan Hilbert (CALS ’13), led a group of Master Naturalists on a 3-day engaged learning trip to Long Island, NY. Working alongside Fire Island Seashore’s National Park Service scientists, Kristi, Meg, and volunteers used GPS techniques to map and monitor shoreline breaches from hurricane waters and to inventory the area’s recovering vegetation. Michael Bilecki, Chief of Resources Management at the NPS Fire Island Seashore, said, “the work completed was work we could not have expected to ever get accomplished without the help provided.” The weekend also included marine restoration activities, with the planting of eelgrass in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Marine Meadows program. Together, the Master Naturalist volunteers and Marine Meadows representatives constructed over 350 planting units, which will add over 3,500 eelgrass plants to the coastal waters of the Peconic Estuary.

The New York Master Naturalist Volunteer Program develops natural resource stewards and empowers them to educate others in their communities, monitor for environmental change, and participate in on-the-ground conservation projects. Each year, volunteers contribute over 800 hours to vital projects such as wildlife monitoring, invasive species control, and habitat restoration. The service-learning weekend on Fire Island resulted in significant improvements to local habitat restoration and monitoring efforts, and volunteers were exposed to a myriad of different learning opportunities and hands-on management techniques. While building skills in various conservation field methods, Master Naturalist volunteers learned about the impact of the storm on local biodiversity, the importance of coastal resilience, especially in a new era of higher magnitude weather events, and the dangers of invasive species. One volunteer summed up the weekend’s expedition, saying “it was great to be part of team of volunteers and accomplish large tasks. The experience exceeded expectations – I did not expect to learn so much and have so much fun doing it.”

DNR Undergrads Awarded Goldwater Scholarship

Two students involved in Natural Resources have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, along with two additional Cornell students. Carter Loftus, ’14 majors in Biology (with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior) and in Natural Resources (with a concentration in Applied Ecology).  He is involved in research on honeybee behavior with Tom Seeley, has done field research on wild dolphin acoustic communication, and volunteers at Cornell’s Center for Animal Resources and Education socializing dogs used in research. Devin McMahon, ’14, is a Biology major who was a research and extension intern in the Department of Natural Resources under Kristi Sullivan and Steve Morreale, collecting data related to forest management and natural gas pipelines as well as studying salamander populations as indicators of forest floor health.

The Goldwater Scholarship is a national award that supports college sophomores and juniors who intend careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering.  Recipients are selected based on academic merit and research experience.  The sponsoring foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater.  The scholarship provides $7500 toward tuition, fees, books, room, and board.

You may view the entire list of scholars at  This year was more competitive than ever with only 271 scholarships awarded (as opposed to the usual 300+); there were 1,107 applicants from across the country.


Kristi Sullivan and Shorna Allred Selected for Engaged Learning + Research Faculty Fellowship Program

Kristi Sullivan and Shorna Allred were recently selected to be members of the Engaged Learning + Research Faculty Fellowship Program at Cornell University. The mission of this fellowship program is to build and contribute towards professional development of engaged learning and research methodologies through developing a research project. Kristi and Shorna will contribute to meetings with other faculty fellows where they will share their ideas and provide feedback to others’ theories, models, and challenges of developing community engaged research and learning.

Current Updates in the Human Dimensions Research Unit

The Human Dimensions Research Unit (HDRU) at Cornell University strives to expand the understanding of academicians, students, and natural resources agency staff about the human behavioral aspects of natural resource management and policy. We work to develop fundamental understandings of human behavior associated with resource management and to apply concepts and empirical findings to real-world, contemporary problems of management.

Professor Dan Decker, director of HDRU, is currently co-chair for an international human dimensions conference, organizing a plenary session for that conference, and is serving with HDRU Senior Research Associate Bruce Lauber  as co-editor of an associated special issue of the Human Dimensions of Wildlife journal. The conference will take place in Breckenridge, Colorado, September 24-27, 2012 and is a cooperative effort  between Cornell University and Colorado State University. The conference theme is “Contributions of Human Dimensions to Adaptive Capacity for Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

Dan Decker is also currently involved in multiple outreach workshops for fish and wildlfie professionals. He has worked with Cindi Jacobson (MS and PhD from Natural Resources)  John Organ (both with US Fish and Wildlife Service), as well as Chris Smith (Wildlife Management Institute) to develop a third workshop in their series at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference on “Transforming State Fish and Wildlife Agencies.”   The 2012 workshop is focused on Perspectives from Outside the Tent Looking In:  Enhancing State Wildlife Agencies’ Impact on the Future of Wildlife Conservation.”  The objective of this workshop is to identify challenges and opportunities for collaboration in wildlife conservation and strategies leading to effective wildlife resource governance.   The workshop focus is on how potential conservation partners (NGOs, federal and local governments, etc.) for State Wildlife Agencies see the direction of needed state agency transformation.  Dan is also planning a series of workshops for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on “Thinking Like a Manager,” “Implications of the Public Trust Doctrine for State Fish and Wildlife Agencies” and “Human Dimensions integration in Fish and Wildlife management through Impact Management.”

Associate Professor Richard C. Stedman, associate director of HDRU, was recently awarded (as part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension team) the David J. Allee and Paul R. Eberts Community and Economic Vitality Award for work related to Marcellus shale.

Rich Stedman is also the Cornell University representative on a National Science Foundation proposal: People, water, and climate: Predicting change, response, and adaptation in socio-ecological systems (Water Sustainability & Climate).  If successful, HDRU would be involved in a basin wide study of linkages between ecological and social change, which fits nicely with current Army Corps and Great Lakes Fisheries projects.

Associate Professor Shorna B. Allred, associate director of HDRU, is involved in multiple workshops and webinars including a Cornell Cooperative Extension Workshop that held October 14 titled “Fostering Community Engagement in Urban Forestry: A Practical Toolkit for Educators.” Others include “Ties to the Land Workshops” and webinars and Climate Atlas Webinars with Cooperative Extension Associates Kristi Sullivan and Gary Goff.

Other ongoing HDRU projects (a sample) include:

  • Increasing the Effectiveness of Fish Consumption Advisories in the Great Lakes States
  • Building Local Capacity for Environmental Resources Conservation in the Face of Change
  • Assessing Agency Capacities to Manage Fish and Wildlife Health
  • Developing knowledge to manage economic, health, and safety risks of wildlife for individuals and communities in New York
  • Human dimensions knowledge to manage wildlife habituation in national parks
  • New York State Woodland Owners and Their Interest in Woody Biofuels

A more comprehensive review of 2010 projects and activities in HDRU can be found in the HDRU Annual Report. Current HDRU publications can be found here.