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Meet FNR Outstanding Senior Alex Dudley

“(Alex) is a self-motivated and highly capable individual that has a passion for wildlife and being in theAlex Dudley headshot outdoors. She is very dedicated and hardworking and very bright and highly effective. This combination underlies her many successes that are the basis of my nomination of her for this award.” – Dr. Pat Zollner said of 2024 FNR Outstanding Senior Alex Dudley.

From her research on black vulture ecology in the Zollner lab and on digital forestry under Dr. Songlin Fei to her leadership in The Wildlife Society and her academic successes, Alex has made a significant mark during her time in Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources.

A forestry and wildlife double major from Sunman, Indiana, Alex was recently named as the Undergraduate Student of the Year by the North Central Section of The Wildlife Society, an award based on academic ability, scholarly achievement, work experience and extra-curricular activities.

She also took home five major awards at the FNR Awards and Scholarship Ceremony, including the Undergraduate Engagement Award, which is given to a senior who has demonstrated excellence in engagement, showing the greatest potential for fulfilling the extension and research components of the land grant mission. Alex also received the Forestry Academic Merit Senior Award, the R.K. Swihart Undergraduate Leadership Award for Wildlife, the Outstanding Senior Award and the SAF Senior Award.

“The bottom line is that Alex is an exceptional student, a great leader and a highly committed wildlife biologist,” Zollner said of Dudley, who has performed undergraduate research in his lab since her freshman year.

Alex’s work focused on quantifying black vulture home ranges in Indiana and Kentucky and also comparedAlex Dudley holds a black vulture estimated home ranges between non-hunting, archery-only and firearms seasons of white-tailed deer. It has resulted in posters, presentations and awards.

Alex presented a first-authored research poster titled “The Influence of Deer Hunting Season on Black Vulture Home Ranges in the Midwest” at the 2022 TWS Conference. She gave an oral presentation on “Resource Pulses from White-Tailed Deer Hunting Season Constrict Black Vulture Home Ranges” at the 2023 TWS Conference and also presented that work at the 2024 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. Her poster on resource pulses also took second place in the undergraduate research category at the annual FNR Poster Competition. She also recently submitted a first-authored manuscript about her research to the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

This past year, Alex also acted as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Songlin Fei’s Digital Forestry lab. In that role, she ensured data accuracy by meticulously cross-referencing and verifying digitized information against historic forestry records. She also conducted ground-truthing exercises, verifying tree species, size and health to validate the accuracy of aerial image-based tree identification. She helped refine data annotation protocols and quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy and consistency of annotated LiDAR datasets, and also digitized and maintained precise forest-edge data, assisting in the delineation and monitoring of forest boundaries.

In addition to her research, Alex has gained field experience through multiple positions. She has acted as a forest technician with Gregg Forest Services, as a small mammal technician with the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and as a biological science technician with USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services. As a forest technician, she marked timber and developed timber sale notices, created maps of management areas for clients and worked with identification and treatment of invasive species. On the HEE, sheAlex Dudley stands in front of a waterfall and a forested hillside analyzed and recorded data from camera trap photos, reflagged old trapping grids, processed and tagged small mammals, and completed micro-vegetation surveys to understand the habitat around traps. With USDA-APHIS, she worked as a member of the Pest Bird Task Force in downtown Indianapolis, where she employed management methods to trap and control the pest bird population. She also has aided in deer reduction projects, recording data from harvested deer.

On campus, Alex also served as a resident assistant her final two years and served as an office assistant in FNR’s academic services office during the 2023-24 school year.

Alex’s leadership can be seen through a variety of roles. She has acted as the president of the Honors College Residential Society and has been involved with Purdue TWS in a number of positions and served as the undergraduate representative for the North Central Section of TWS for two years.

Dudley served as the 2023-24 president of Purdue TWS after acting as secretary and vice president in past years. She was a member of the 2023 TWS Quiz Bowl team, which won the national title in Louisville, Ky., in November 2023. She also was part of the 2022 team, which finished third nationally. As the TWS North Central undergraduate student representative, she represented undergraduate students across the region to share their views in chapter events, worked with the executive board to developAlex Dudley holds an owl at a TWS event at the Cook County Forest Preserve. programs for students, and helped plan the section’s involvement in the 2023 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. Dudley also helped organize the North Central Section Conclave, hosted at Purdue in March.

Academically, Alex is a Presidential scholar and has been on the Dean’s list her entire tenure at Purdue despite completing honors projects and double-majoring in forestry and wildlife. She also participated in the Sustainable Natural Resources study abroad program in Sweden and Norway in July 2023, which explored the effect of terrain, climate, vegetation, faunal assemblages, social structures and technologies on natural resource use. 

Alex is a Purdue Honors College student. She also is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and the National Residence Hall Honorary

“I’m honored to be named as the outstanding senior for this year, especially since I was also the nomination for outstanding junior last year,” Dudley said. “Since this is my second time receiving the award, I feel like it goes to show that even though I accomplished a lot in my first three years at Purdue, I continued to put in the effort for my last year here to try and make a long-lasting impact in the department. I feel like as a senior, this award is a culmination of all of the things that I have done in the past four years in FNR, so I’m super grateful to have been selected for this award.”

Alex will continue to make an impact on the field of natural resources as a master’s degree student at Wichita State University, beginning this fall. Her research will focus on using cattle grazing as a proxy for historical bison grazing to increase plant diversity. 

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