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FNR Field Report: Russell Duke

Students from Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources took their classroom knowledge to the field for summer internships and paid positions across the country, gaining valuable experience, hands-on training and career guidance. The FNR Field Reports series will offer updates from those individuals as summer positions and experiences draw to a close.Russell Duke inspecting a deer that had been tagged for research

Russell Duke, who graduated with a double major in forestry and wildlife in May 2022, worked as a forestry intern alongside farm manager Brian Beheler and forester Don Carlson on the FNR research properties. In that role, Duke assisted in implementing forest and other land management practices across the state.

“I learned about herbicide applications, invasive species control in both forests and prairies, timber marking, tree release, tree felling, heavy equipment operation and tree planting using numerous techniques,” Duke said. “My favorite parts of the job were doing hands-on land management that I had only previously learned about and traveling to different Purdue properties. I enjoyed being able to work independently and do a very wide assortment of activities that I otherwise would have had to have numerous jobs or internships to learn. The most challenging parts were the occasional long workdays doing heavy physical work and working in bad weather.”

Throughout his Purdue career, Duke was involved in several clubs and organizations. He played trumpet in the marching, jazz and concert bands, was a member of the FNR and College of Agriculture Student Councils, and was a student representative, herps working group leader and President of The Purdue Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

Russell Duke holds a frog on a TWS outing to Kankakee Sands State ParkIn past summers, Duke worked on various research projects within FNR. His sophomore year, he worked for a PhD student in Dr. Rob Swihart’s lab studying the effects on fire on salamander populations at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment. He also worked for Dr. Mike Saunders at the CRANE Naval base studying oak regeneration after fire and how fire can affect timber value. As a junior, Duke worked with Dr. Jason Hoverman studying the effects of Per-/Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on amphibians and fish.

In his position as an FNR forestry intern, the Evansville, Ind., native said he was able to apply almost all of the knowledge he learned in FNR forestry classes as well as a few wildlife related topics. The experience also helped him clarify his career goals moving forward.

“My plan was to find an FNR related job and work for a few years before going to graduate school,” Duke said. “I was a little more interested in finding wildlife jobs than forestry jobs. This slightly changed my career goals as I realize now that I enjoy land and forest management more than I did previously.”

Next up, Duke will be working as an arborist in charge of transmission line clearance for Duke Energy.

FNR forestry staff and students: assistant forester Stephen Volz, assistant property manager Clayton Emerson, summer employees Noah Ehmen and Summer Brown, and forestry interns Lauren Laux and Russell Duke. FNR forestry staff and students: assistant forester Stephen Volz, assistant property manager Clayton Emerson, summer employees Noah Ehmen and Summer Brown, and forestry interns Lauren Laux and Russell Duke.

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