Every spring break, about a dozen University of Georgia students head to the Jones Center at Ichauway in South Georgia for a heated course.
They’re there to learn about the value of prescribed burning, and in the span of one week they learn about safety and fire mechanics, benefits to the ecosystem, the influences of weather and how smoke plays into calculations. Within a couple of days, though, they are working directly with fire, starting out small and eventually, by the end of the week, working out a large-scale prescribed burn plan and putting it into practice.
The class, taught through the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, offers an experience that’s vital to students’ futures. Whether they plan a career in forestry, in natural resources for a state agency or nonprofit, or managing for a particular species or natural area, it’s imperative to understand the role that fire plays.
And at Ichauway, a privately owned and managed property that works to maintain its longleaf pine ecosystem, students also learn about the many benefits to prescribed burning. This means, through their weeklong stay, they also learn about the value of wetlands and how a variety of species have adapted to live in an area that sees frequent fires.
By the end of the week, students leave not only with an understanding of fire mechanics and safety, but it also sets them on their own course of incorporating prescribed burns in their future careers—a move that has positive effects beyond the forest.