Associate Dean of Research
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Graeme Lockaby, who has worked at Auburn University since 1986, is the associate dean of research and a professor of forestry in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. He is a native of Seneca, S.C., and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Clemson University. He earned his doctorate in agronomy-soils at Mississippi State University and now focuses his research on wetland biogeochemistry.
1. How did you decide to concentrate your college coursework in forestry and agronomy?
The choice of forestry was really an accident. I came from a very rural background and did not understand that students were expected to select a major upon arrival at college. I ended up in an auditorium at Western Carolina University with the many other incoming freshmen and watched students depart as the roll call of majors was announced. Another student explained the process to me, and finally there were only two choices left: chemistry and pre-forestry. I rolled the dice with the latter and reckon that I'll continue to hang with it. The choice of agronomy-soils came out of an interest in forest soils that developed while I was at Clemson University.
2. Which professional colleague or college professor has had the most influence upon your career?
My two major professors during my Ph.D. work, George Switzer and Lyle Nelson, have had a major influence on my career. They both had a passionate curiosity about forest biogeochemistry and set very high standards regarding the scientific method and the factors that drive research quality.
3. How does forestry research translate into benefits for the forestry industry as well as the public?
Forestry and wildlife research has generated tremendous benefits for industry as well as non-industrial forest owners and the public. For example, most planted pine and hardwood come from genetically improved sources now so that growth is faster, and disease and insect resistance has improved. Research into wildlife habitat and population dynamics has boosted deer and turkey populations and is moving toward biological control capability for nuisance animals such as feral hogs. In addition, we now understand the economic value of maintaining forests in order to sustain higher quantities and quality of water.
Research has shown that one of the best ways to ensure that forests and their many societal benefits are maintained is to enable land owners to generate income from their forestlands. This approach causes forest cover to become more economically competitive in comparison with other land uses and increases the likelihood of forest retention. This is particularly important as forests in the southeastern United States are being lost to expanding populations and urbanization.
4. You mentioned that your hobby is raising and training beagles to hunt rabbits. How and when did you develop an interest in this hobby and how many beagles have you owned?
While I haven't actually hunted for a decade or so, I still really enjoy working with the little dogs. I obtained my first beagles when I was around 10 and have probably owned 75 since then, each of which had or has a unique personality and bark. American Kennel Club guidelines dictate that beagles are of two size classes: less than 13 inches at the shoulder and between 13 and 15 inches. My preference has always been for the smaller category.
Beagles have gentle personalities, are quick witted, and most have a real passion for following scent. Basically, the 'work' that the beagles perform consists of flushing a rabbit (either an eastern cottontail or the larger swamp rabbit) and giving voice while following the scent. The dogs simply keep the rabbit moving and have no control over direction. Rabbits are able to outdistance the dogs quickly and, consequently, are never caught.
5. What are some of their names? Which one was the best hunter and which one had the best personality?
While every beagle I've owned has been special, there were two beagles over the years with which I was particularly close and had almost a telepathic relationship. These were Sally who died around 1990 and Midget, who died last year. Both could communicate with subtle facial expressions and I always understood the point they were making.
Other names have included Chloe, Peaches, Jackson, Bonnie, Pearl, Missy, Dorsey and Sam. In my opinion, one or two syllable names are best for calling dogs across open spaces so something like "Mesopotamia" just wouldn't work. The best hunter I've ever owned is Snuffy who has an incredible ability to follow scent across water, bare ground, downed timber or asphalt. He can also locate and follow scent that is quite old and still eventually flush the rabbit which laid the scent.