UAM Natural Resources graduate student Cassandra Hug recently won first place in the 11th annual Dr. John Adams student poster contest at the 68th Annual Southern Hardwood Forest Research Group meeting.

The meeting, which was held March 22 online via Microsoft Teams, is for people from various state agencies, organizations and universities to talk about ongoing projects and current research, as well as management for forests and funding.

The 11th annual Dr. John Adams student poster contest was open to any undergraduate, master of science, or doctoral student working on original research that investigates some aspect of southern hardwood forestry.

Hug’s poster focused on tree inventories on one of the green tree reservoirs, George’s Woods, within the Five Oaks property near Humphrey. A green tree reservoir is a forest of hardwood trees that stays shallowly flooded in fall and winter. They are desirable areas for waterfowl.

Five Oaks Agricultural Research and Education Center funded Hug’s research project. This particular green tree reservoir is managed mainly for waterfowl and duck hunting, according to Hug.

“What we want to see are a lot of trees that produce smaller acorns, such as nuttall oak or willow oak,” she said. “This study has shown that there is more overcup oak in the overstory as opposed to seeing nuttall or willow oaks, which would be desirable for waterfowl.”

Hug’s poster explains that most green tree reservoir management techniques involve constant flooding throughout the dormant season. The poster asserts that constant flooding increases stress on trees in such reservoirs and alters the forest composition.

The large-scale project includes dividing the 12 green tree reserves into 750 plots, where Hug takes detailed vegetation composition and tree health measurements. Eventually, she will include elevation measures to see if different elevations affect the tree’s health. Hug evaluated 70 plots in George’s Woods to begin her project. Hug has spent the last few months collecting data on the overstory canopy structure, diameter at breast height distribution, and importance value of each tree species.

Hug’s research revealed the overcup oak had an importance value IMP of 65 percent. Overcup dominated the forest canopy in their forest area, followed by species such as nuttall oak cedar elm, and willow oak. The nuttall and willow are of particular value to waterfowl due to the smaller acorns they produce. Their acorns are small enough for the ducks to swallow.

“I only evaluated one green tree reservoir because it’s what we had accomplished before the poster competition,” said Hug. “We hope to have all 12 green tree reservoirs done by this summer, 2022. We are hiring two different field research teams to measure the 750 temporary and permanent plots. It is all part of my master project thesis, so it’s crucial to get measurement completed this summer.”

Hug is originally from the front range of the Rockies near Denver, Colorado. She did her undergraduate work at Regis University. She said she has never been duck hunting or any kind of hunting. While looking for a master’s degree assistantship, she didn’t intentionally go for forestry over wildlife but was offered two opportunities. She turned down an assistantship in Indiana for aquaculture studies. Hug said she doesn’t really care for fishing and certainly not for a career.

“I grew up around the outdoors and trees, so the natural resources route seemed like a good fit,” Hug said.

Hug says the poster contest was a byproduct of her research and larger thesis project. She said the poster presentation was not required as part of her schoolwork. She learned about the poster contest by her faculty adviser, Dr. Pradip Saud, an assistant professor of biometrics at UAM, who walked her through the process, step-by-step.

“By presenting posters, the student can interact with the camera in place of a person. They have an audience,” Dr. Saud said. “It’s another kind of experience, rather than the traditional inperson experience.”

“I believe that the poster presentations help build confidence and motivate students to become more involved with their research,” he said.

Saud himself has presented a half dozen posters and shared his experiences.

Hug collected $250 for the first-place award and she will receive a certificate. Hug said the money would go toward her ongoing educational expenses.