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FNR Names 2020 Alumni Award Honorees

Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources has selected three outstanding alumni as award honorees for 2020. Mary Beth Adams will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, Amanda Wuestefeld has been named Distinguished Alumnus and Benjamin Knapp has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award.

Adams and Wuestefeld follow Steve Shifley (Lifetime Achievement) and Greg Dahle (Distinguished Alumnus), who were honored in 2019. A full list of Purdue FNR alumni award winners is here: Alumni Awards


Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the accomplishments of alumni who have provided long-time exceptional service and leadership in their profession, community and a continuing interest and loyalty to Purdue FNR. The recipient also must have provided significant contributions to natural resources through professional accomplishment, activity in professional organizations, community service work and other activities that make the nominee a credit to their profession.
Mary Beth Adams headshotAdams, who earned her bachelor’s degree in forestry in 1980 and master’s degree in forestry in 1982, is currently a research soil scientist for the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. Dr. Adams, who also has been a visiting researcher with the West Virginia University Division of Forestry and Natural Resources since 2012, has been working with the Forest Service in various roles since 1989. She began her Forest Service career as an assistant program manager of the spruce-fir research program in 1989 and spent the next 20 years as a project leader at the Northern Research Station in Parsons, West Virginia. She has been a soil scientist at the station since 2010.

Adams has focused her research on how water and nutrients move through forest ecosystems in response to various stressors and using that knowledge to sustain the productivity of forest ecosystems. She has published more than 160 scientific articles and 17 book chapters and acted as an editor for eight books. In addition, she has served the next generation of foresters as an educator, advisor and committee member for several universities. She has given lectures at 16 universities across the globe and taught courses at West Virginia, the University of Tennessee and Davis & Elkins College.

Adams has focused her research on how water and nutrients move through forest ecosystems in response to various stressors and using that knowledge to sustain the productivity of forest ecosystems. She has published more than 160 scientific articles and 17 book chapters and acted as an editor for eight books. In addition, she has served the next generation of foresters as an educator, advisor and committee member for several universities. She has given lectures at 16 universities across the globe and taught courses at West Virginia, the University of Tennessee and Davis & Elkins College.

Adams has focused her research on how water and nutrients move through forest ecosystems in response to various stressors and using that knowledge to sustain the productivity of forest ecosystems. She has published more than 160 scientific articles and 17 book chapters and acted as an editor for eight books. In addition, she has served the next generation of foresters as an educator, advisor and committee member for several universities. She has given lectures at 16 universities across the globe and taught courses at West Virginia, the University of Tennessee and Davis & Elkins College.

Distinguished Alumnus Award
The Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes the accomplishments of a mid-career alumnus who exemplifies outstanding achievement and service, both personally and professionally. The recipient must illustrate significant contributions to his/her profession and/or society in general, civic responsibility or contributions to his/her community, a continuing interest in the University, highest integrity in professional, public and personal relations and a strong potential for future professional growth, particularly in positions of greater responsibility and service to his/her professional and society.
Amanda Wuestefeld headshotWuestefeld, who completed her bachelor’s degree in wildlife science in 1996, is the current Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife. Wuestefeld began her career as a seasonal interpretive naturalist for the Indiana Division of State Parks as an undergraduate student. She was an aquatic resources education coordinator for the DNR for more than 11 years, before acting as the Hoosier Outdoor Heritage Coordinator for eight years. She was then named assistant director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, a role she occupied for five years until being promoted to Director in September 2019.

During her career with the Indiana DNR, Wuestefeld took on the nearly seven-year task of rewriting and implementing the state wildlife action plan, which was completed in September of 2019. The plan includes a communications strategy for natural resource professional to avoid random acts of conservation, while also fostering an environment of collaboration in order to help Indiana sustain diverse habitats and wildlife populations.

Wuestefeld’s long track record of successful conservation initiatives and positive contributions to natural resources have been recognized by many groups over the years. In 2002, she received the Partners in the Environment’s Significant Contributions Award from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful for her work in improving Indianapolis’ aquatic resources education. She garnered the Joe Wright Recognition of Excellence Award from the Environmental Education Association of Indiana in both 2005 and 2008 for her work on aquatic resources and hunter recruitment. In 2009, The Indiana Bowhunter Association tabbed Wuestefeld as its DNR Employee of the Year for her hunter recruitment and education efforts.

In her time with the DNR, Wuestefeld has launched an online licensing system for the Division of Fish and Wildlife, developed a new pay scale for department biologists bringing Indiana’s positions up to market value, spearheaded the development of a fishing outreach program at the Indiana State Fair, and raised more than $100,000 annually for the Hoosier Outdoor Experience.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes the accomplishments of individuals who have excelled in professional and civic accomplishments and have graduated from Purdue FNR within the last 15 years.
knapp-ben500x671.jpgKnapp, who earned his bachelor’s degree in forestry from Purdue in 2003, is an associate professor of silviculture in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Missouri. After completing his master’s and doctorate degrees at Clemson in 2005 and 2012 respectively, Knapp began teaching at Missouri as a tenure-track assistant professor. In 2018, he was promoted to associate professor. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in silviculture as well as a course on Forest Fire Control and Use. Knapp also is the advisor to the University of Missouri Student Association of Fire Ecology, which aims to provide students knowledge of fire ecology as well as hands-on experience implementing prescribed fires and suppressing wildfires.

Knapp has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications and given more than 60 presentations at professional conferences. His research focuses mostly on the understanding of the ecological effects of silviculture and synthesizing that information to better apply forest management practices. In total, Knapp and his co-investigators have secured more than $2.3 million in external grant funding. In 2019, Knapp co-authored a publication with current FNR professor Mike Saunders regarding problems with regenerating desirable hardwood species in the eastern United States. He also joined with faculty at Purdue and the University of Kentucky to author a $10 million proposal to establish a White Oak Initiative to investigate the long-term use, regeneration and sustainability of the species.

In addition to his teaching duties, Knapp is the superintendent of the university’s Baskett Wildlife Research and Education Center. The Center, located 15 miles from the University of Missouri campus, is used for outreach, extension and recruiting. In addition to use for undergraduate and graduate student activities, it has also provided a home for forestry field competitions for high school Future Farmers of America chapters, meetings for the Society of American Foresters and even a maple syrup camp, which exposes students and K-12 teachers to educational and career opportunities in natural resources.

Professionally, Knapp is the communications coordinator for the silviculture working group of the national Society of American Foresters. He has previously been honored with two early career awards from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR): the 2018 Outstanding Early Career Teacher Award and the 2019 Early Investigator Research Achievement Award.

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