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Branching Out: An alumnus’ journey into forestry innovation

By February 21, 2024No Comments

Upon graduating from high school and securing a summer position with the U.S. Forest Service in Placerville, California, working on a Timber Stand Improvement Crew, Wayne Little found forestry to be the natural choice for his career path. His older brother, Dana Little, who graduated from the CFWE in 1979 and retired after 43 years as a professional forester in 2022, also helped influence him. 

Wayne Little
Wayne Little, Lyons Seed Orchard Manager with Weyerhaeuser Company 

“During the late ’70s, there weren’t a lot of minorities enrolled at Auburn as a whole, and the percentage was even less in forestry.”  

Unfazed by the statistics, Little enrolled in the two-year pre-forestry program at Tuskegee University and later transferred to Auburn’s forestry program. 

“Auburn was and still is one of the top forestry schools in the nation,” said Little. “You have a unique opportunity to experience the different facets of forestry hands-on during Summer Practicum. It provided a basic foundation to build upon.”  

Summer Practicum, an immersive experience hosted at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center near Andalusia, Alabama, stands as a cornerstone of the CFWE’s engaging approach to education. During the Summer Practicum, forestry students immerse themselves in a dynamic learning environment, temporarily leaving behind the confines of traditional classrooms. They reside at the Dixon Center, where they actively participate in courses tailored to provide hands-on learning and cultivate the field skills essential for their education and future careers. The center welcomed its first group of forestry practicum students in 1980. 

Solon Dixon Forestry Education CenterSolon Dixon Forestry Education Center, Andalusia, Alabama. 

Little emerged from his experience in the CFWE well-prepared for success in forestry, with a foundation rooted in the practical application of acquired principles. The exposure to rural environments during his academic journey honed his adaptability and strengthened his interpersonal skills, enabling him to connect with individuals across various backgrounds effectively. 

Little currently serves as the Orchard Manager at Weyerhaeuser Company’s seed orchard in Lyons, Georgia. 

As the orchard manager, Little oversees various responsibilities, ensuring the production of 2,000-5,000 bushels of genetically improved loblolly pinecones annually. His role extends to safety coordination, record-keeping and managing contract administration for Control Mass Pollination, Cone Harvest and Orchard Maintenance. He also supervises the contract growing of container-grown seedlings and oversees orchard capital projects.

Control Mass PollinationControl Mass Pollination, a precise pollination method enhancing genetic diversity by injecting pollen into bagged female flowers, strategically tracking seed parentage. 

Wayne’s experience with the (CFWE) went beyond academic achievements, cultivating his success in an industry with limited minority representation. The college provided him with practical knowledge and skills, promoting adaptability and crucial interpersonal abilities for the field. In 1983, Wayne graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forest management. 

While enrolled at CFWE, Wayne participated in forestry club events and intramural sports, showcasing his commitment to academics and extracurricular activities. One individual who significantly influenced Wayne’s academic and personal growth was his advisor, Harry Larsen, known affectionately as “leafy” Larsen. Larsen’s guidance and tough yet fair approach left a lasting impression. 

Wayne’s advice for prospective and current students is rooted in the growing need for modern and dedicated forestry professionals. He encourages students to embrace challenges, branch out, be creative and leverage existing technology to the best of their ability. 

“Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer to head special projects. There is a growing need for good forestry students who are modern and willing to take the challenge to improve the way our forests are being managed.” 

Little has remained an active CFWE alumnus as a member of the Woodlands and Wildlife Society and continues to support the college through volunteer efforts and various donorships. 

Follow along in February as we celebrate Black History Month by featuring alums of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment’s degree programs!  

Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are integral to the country’s history. In celebration this year, organizations throughout Auburn will host several events and initiatives in which students, faculty and staff are welcome to participate. Click here for more information and to view events. 

Click here for more information on the CFWE’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives. 

(Written by Allison Killingsworth) 

Interested in pursing a degree in forestry? Explore options at the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment

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