Students with Oklahoma State University’s department of natural resource ecology and management (NREM) will have two new courses this fall.

Undergraduate students can take wildland fire ecology and management.

Graduate students can enroll in ecology in fire dependent ecosystems.

These fire-related courses will explain the inner workings of virtually every ecosystem.

“Fire is an integral part of most natural ecosystems; these courses will help students understand how fires behave in different plant communities and how those communities react to fire,” said Keith Owens, NREM department head.

“Some species are very intolerant of fire but others absolutely depend on fire to persist in the plant community.”

Steve Hallgren, associate professor of forest ecology with OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, will teach the undergraduate course.

The course is oriented toward basic knowledge of fire ecology and will cover fundamentals of wildland fire.

“This course provides persons interested in a career in fire a solid fundamental background of what wildland fire is and its consequences for the ecosystem,” he said.

“A person never knows what expertise will be needed throughout a career, so here’s a chance to get much of the basic knowledge about wildland fire.”

The junior-level course will serve as a stepping-stone to those interested in a career in fire management, while also providing comprehensive knowledge to students who are just interested in fire.

“We view it as a course that is going to meet the needs of our students,” Hallgren said.

“We have students in wildlife, fisheries, forestry and range; all of those disciplines concern ecosystems affected by fire.”

The graduate-level course focuses more about ecology of a whole ecosystem that is highly fire dependent.

Many of the world’s ecosystems fall into this category.

“The idea will be to capitalize on all of the similarities and differences in all the regions of the world, but focus on the dominant features that affect different places,” said Sam Fuhlendorf, professor of rangeland ecology and management with NREM.

“Fire happens. No matter what you are interested in, from a natural resource standpoint, fire is the constant thing in this part of the world.”

The class will also focus on the ecology of ecosystems if fire is removed.

This notion gives a more complete understanding of fire management, which OSU specializes in.

“The students are able to get experience on fires; they’re able to see a whole bunch of treatments on fires,” Fuhlendorf said. “We are between a forest and a grassland. We have a lot of research on fire and good people. OSU is really well-placed to do well in fire.”

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