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Auburn University launches new curriculum to expand natural resource-focused career options, to host open house for students

By October 24, 2022February 6th, 2023No Comments

Auburn University has expanded curriculum options for students interested in natural resource-focused careers with the launch of five new minors, including Coastal Management, Environmental Law, Forest Health, Forest Seedling Nursery Management and Urban Forestry.

The College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment will officially launch the new minors with an open house on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. Current Auburn students are invited to the open house for pizza and discussion with advisors and faculty experts about the curricula, enrollment requirements and employment opportunities.

Created to address present challenges identified by industry and employment gaps existing in the work force, the minors will allow students to specialize their education when paired with other degrees on campus, or to build upon the curriculum of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment’s Natural Resource Management Bachelor of Science degree.

“We are excited to provide these new offerings that were requested by employers and students who were seeking opportunities more closely aligned with present natural resource issues and the current job market,” says the college’s dean, Janaki Alavalapati.

Coastal Management minor

Coastal lands and resources are under increasing pressure due to a variety of environmental and societal issues. Sea level rise, urbanization, energy production, tropical storms and habitat loss are just some of the pressing issues facing coastal areas.

As such, there is an increasing need for professionals trained to manage natural resources in coastal areas. Through the Coastal Management minor, students will learn how management and policy are applied to natural resources within a coastal environment.

“Graduates in this program learn the necessary skills to assess and manage the important coastal habitats and resources that sustain local communities,” said Chris Anderson, who is lead professor of the minor in the college. “Graduates will be well-suited for professional positions that contribute to a more resilient coastal zone for the environment and society.”

As part of the curriculum, students will be required to attend classes at the Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory, or DISL, for one summer.

“The experiential learning opportunity provided at the DISL is critical for preparing these students with the necessary knowledge and tools to work in coastal environments upon graduation,” Anderson said.

Environmental Law minor

Supporting the pursuit of a law degree, the Environmental Law minor will prepare students to address concerns about regulations and laws governing environmental protection, natural resource management, sustainable development and land use planning.

Environmental attorneys typically represent government entities, community groups and nonprofit organizations on behalf of the public’s interest on issues related to environmental policy.

“Environmental conditions are changing faster than policy can keep pace,” said Richard Hall, adjunct professor and faculty lead for the minor in the college. “It’s essential that we have professionals well-versed in natural resource issues who can advise legislators, advocate for sustainable land-use planning and strengthen community resilience despite the effects of climate change and other environmental hardships.”

Forest Health minor

Healthy forests are a critical part of our nation’s landscape. Our forests provide recreation opportunity, shelter, water and food, as well as lumber for construction, furnishings and basic necessities.

Through coursework in the Forest Health minor, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of insect and disease management to work with landowners, as well as conservation and government agencies to protect forests from insects, disease and invasive species.

“Given the immense pressure on forests, it is important to industry, landowners and the general public that we have professionals who can accurately assess forest health and take proactive measures to address issues before they become endemic,” said Lori Eckhardt, professor of integrated forest pathology and entomology and the director of the Auburn University Forest Health Cooperative.

Forest Seedling Nursery Management minor

Current seedling production is 1 billion annually, with demand for reforestation due to private, industrial and government land holdings, as well as carbon sequestration credits.

Thus, demand for professionals in the forest nursery seedling production industry is rising in tandem, particularly in areas where timber is a dominant commodity, such as the southeast and northwest regions of the U.S.

“This minor will prepare students with the skill sets to successfully operate a forest-tree seedling nursery, as well as to work in state, private and federal forest seedling nurseries,” said Scott Enebak, professor and director of the Auburn’s Southern Forest Nursery Management Cooperative.

Urban Forestry minor

Beyond the many benefits trees and forests provide people, communities and industries, they are a valuable part of the urban landscape which contribute to the abatement of air pollution, mitigate summer temperatures and provide necessary habitat for wildlife.

Managing trees in an urban setting requires a specific skill set that is currently in demand. Further, as pressure on urban forests from development increases and urbanization continues to move outward into forested areas, the proper planning and management of urban forests becomes even more essential.

To address this need, the college has created an Urban Forestry minor to prepare students with the foundational knowledge to be involved with urban forest management activities such as green space planning, tree planting and care and program administration.

“Traditional forestry students may not fully understand the unique management challenges presented in urban and urbanizing forested environments,” said Enebak. “However, given that nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population resides in or close to these areas, it is important that the university expands its curriculum to train and develop urban forestry professionals to meet this need within our municipalities.”

Students interested in learning more about the new minors may register to attend the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment’s information open house being held on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m.

To receive information about the curricula, they may visit this page or contact the college’s student advisors via email at

(Written by Gracen Carter)

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