Tech students ignite climate change dilemma

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Technological University student Nick Gorske gives his ignite talk on the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that kills hemlock trees.

HOUGHTON — Three years ago Michigan Technological University (MTU) launched a new class, Communication for Natural Resource Professionals, in response to the need for graduates to have better communication skills.

Tuesday night at the Portage Lake District Library, MTU students in the class practiced giving public presentations, but for the first time they presented in the “ignite” format.

The talks are rigidly formatted. Each is five minutes long with a 20-slide slideshow that advances automatically in 15 second intervals. This forces students to memorize their information and practice their timing. During the class students also make brochures, project funding proposals, resumes and sometimes articles, according to MTU associate professor Molly Cavaleri.

“I think it’s more fun for the audience,” she said.

Kaylie Butts, a student at MTU who gave a presentation titled “The Importance of Native Pollinator Habitat Integrity,” said the class is important because graduates will need to be able to communicate with the public and often have to find ways to fund their own projects.

“Sometimes we are a little too jargon heavy,” Butts said.

Another student, Nick Gorske, presented on the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect from East Asia that has been destroying hemlock stands across the continent.

He stressed the importance of being able to identify both the insect and its favorite food, and knowing how to report an infestation to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or the Michigan Invasive Species Network.

Karl Heinonen presented on the effect of climate change on the forests of the Upper Peninsula.

“Sugar maple is not expected to do well at all,” he said.

Sugar maple trees are not tolerant of flooding or drought, and climate change is expected to bring bigger storms with longer droughts between them to the Great Lakes region, Heinonen said.

The sugar maple species is not expected to die off, but its prevalence in Michigan is likely to fade.

Other talks focused on preservation of various land types and features, invasive species, disease and disorders, forest management, habitat loss and development.

Almost 30 students gave presentations.