MSU graduate students sweep research competitions


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Posted: 2/26/2007


Four wildlife and fisheries science graduate students in Mississippi State's College of Forest Resources are top winners in recent regional research competitions.

Heather J. Theel of Aurora, Ill., Nathaniel C. "Nate" Hodgins of Sioux City, Iowa, and Amy B. Spencer of Columbus, Ohio, were among seven competing at the annual meeting and technical conference of the Mississippi American Fisheries Society. Others involved in the Vicksburg program represented the universities of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana at Monroe.

In a separate event at Destin, Fla., Tyler S. Harris of Louisville took first place in the visual display competition. He was among nine students competing at the concurrent annual meetings of the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network and Colloquium on Conservation of Mammals in the Southeastern United States.

Theel received the first-place award. Her presentation dealt with the effects of hydrilla, an invasive, non-native aquatic plant found in many waterways that alters aquatic habitats and fish foraging behavior, among other major impacts. Her work is directed by associate professor Eric Dibble.

Hodgins finished in second place for his report on the growth of black carp at different water temperatures. Also a non-native species, the fish is negatively impacting native mussel and snail populations, its primary foods of choice. Professor Hal Schramm directs his research.

Spencer won third place for presentation and second place in the people's choice category. Her investigation, also directed by Schramm, used spatial analysis in a visual display explaining aquatic habitat changes along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Harris' research, directed by associate professor Jeanne Jones, deals with the effects of herb-eating mammals on hardwood reforestation in the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. In addition to MSU, Harris' challenge event in Florida included graduate students from Alabama A&M, Arkansas State, Auburn, and Clemson universities, as well as the universities of North Carolina at Greensboro and Tennessee.

NEWS EDITORS/DIRECTORS: For more information on the students' projects, contact Dr. Dibble at 662-325-7494 or; Dr. Schramm at 325-7495 or; or Dr. Jones at 325-2219 or

Wildlife and Fisheries