Texas A&M hires new department head for ecosystem science and management

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Katy Kavanagh, 979-845-5033

COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Katy Kavanagh has been hired as the new Texas A&M University ecosystem science and management department head, moving to College Station from the University of Idaho.

Dr. Katy Kavanagh has been hired as the new Texas A&M University ecosystem science and management department head at College Station. (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Katy Kavanagh has been hired as the new Texas A&M University ecosystem science and management department head at College Station. (Courtesy photo)

Kavanagh, a professor of forest science, will start on July 1, according to Dr. Bill Dugas, acting vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She will have a joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and theTexas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Dr. Kavanagh brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of research, Extension and teaching,” Dugas said. “Her leadership will help strengthen our nationally known program and build upon the talents of our faculty and students within the ecosystem science and management department.”

Kavanagh said she is excited to join the progressive-thinking department, created in 2007 when the rangeland ecology and management department was combined with the forest science department to focus on ecosystem science and natural resource management, “because this integration is the way of the future.”

“I am delighted and honored by the opportunity to lead the ecosystem science and management department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M,” Kavanagh said.

“The department has a distinctive blend of programs in research, teaching and Extension, each with exceptionally talented faculty, staff and students. I look forward to working closely with them as we take the department to the next level with innovative programs for the benefit of the forests and rangelands of Texas and beyond.”

Kavanagh earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and her doctorate from Oregon State University.

She most recently served as a professor in the department of forest, rangeland and fire sciences at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. Prior to that, she was a faculty member at Oregon State University in the forest resources department.

She previously taught undergraduate and graduate level courses as well as a senior capstone course, including Forest Dynamics and Management, Forest Ecosystem Process, Forest Ecosystem Analysis and Forest Ecology/Tree Physiology Journal Review, as well as short courses for resource professionals on forest health issues, fire effects and forest regeneration

Kavanagh also spent five years as an Oregon State University Extension forestry specialist, where she conducted research and educational programs aimed at small forest landowners.

Throughout her career, her research has focused on the fundamental understanding of how forest ecosystems function and the assimilation of this knowledge into the evolution of future understanding of global change impacts.

“Water is the common theme in all my research projects,” she said. “At the smallest scale, I study the influence of environmental conditions on water in trees. At the broadest scale, I study biogeochemical cycles in riparian forest ecosystems and the influence of changes in these cycles on forest productivity.”

Starting with seed germination and establishment, forest productivity in the arid ecosystems is fundamentally controlled by access to water and nutrients, Kavanagh said. Understanding the mechanistic basis of how forests thrive with water and nutrient limitations will improve understanding of global change impacts and thereby management of forested ecosystems.

“Texas has incredible diversity, from the Gulf Coast forests and wetlands to deserts, expanding from sea level to the heights of the Guadalupe Mountains, and it is this diversity that is attractive to me,” she said.

“The breadth of ecosystems combined with land use gradients from rural to urban brings a variety of management challenges and opportunities. I look forward to leading a department that is focused on the stewardship of rangelands, wetlands and forests across these gradients and through time.”

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