School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Research Fellow John Kush was named the 2017 inductee to the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame at the Southeastern Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet held in Miramar Beach, Florida.
As an Alabama resident and forestry graduate, Kush was considered for the Hall of Fame due to his outstanding contributions to forestry in Alabama over the course of his forty-year career.
A native of Illinois, Kush graduated with high honors in 1980 with a BS in Forest Science from the University of Illinois/Urban Champaign and then worked briefly as an urban forester in the city of Park Ridge, IL, a suburb of Chicago. In 1981, Kush came to Auburn University as a graduate research assistant in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, where he first began to work with southern forest ecosystems.
Upon graduating with his MS in forestry he transitioned to a research associate position within the SFWS where he would eventually become the data collection and analysis team lead for the USDA Forest Service’s Regional Longleaf Pine Growth Study, activities he would continue to oversee for more than 30 years.
Later, after earning his Ph.D. in forest ecology from Auburn in 2002, Kush became a research fellow, where he has continued his work with longleaf pine, fire and other aspects of southern forest management.
Among his many achievements, Kush has published four book chapters, produced over 30 referred journal articles, and provided countless abstracts, presentations and posters.
“Dr. Kush has begun to reach beyond his work with longleaf pine to focus on shortleaf pine and oak systems, and restoration ecology,” noted John McGuire, a former colleague and senior project manager with Westervelt Ecological Services.
Kush is a senior ecologist with the Ecological Society of America, a position which speaks to his desire to bridge the gap between the disparate fields of classic ecology and forestry. “This bridge IS the future of Alabama Forestry and Dr. Kush is leading the charge across it,” said McGuire.
Character, integrity and contributions to the community in which the forester resides are also considered by the organization’s awards sub-committee.
Kush’s work has involved outreach education where he has organized and participated in many landowner and youth field days and workshops such as Ag Discovery Day, Science Olympiad (leaf and tree event organizer), and Escambia Experimental Forest Anniversary field days.
Throughout his career, Kush has invested significant time and energy to cultivating the next generation of foresters. Since he began instructing classes with the SFWS in 2002, Kush has taught Silviculture, Forestry Summer Practicum, Forest Measurements I, Forest Stand Dynamics, Forest Ecology, and Longleaf Pine Ecology, Management, and Restoration. Most recently he has co-led the implementation of the SFWS’ first online professional certification course in Restoration Ecology that will begin enrollment this fall.
Known for his infectious passion and intimate knowledge of Alabama forestry resources, qualities that have endeared him to many students over the years; Kush has been awarded Forestry Teacher of the Year multiple times, including 2012, 2014, and 2015.
Kush was also recently awarded the Auburn University 2017 Spirit of Sustainability Award which recognizes the accomplishments of students, faculty, staff and alumni who “exemplify the Auburn spirit by making significant contributions toward sustainability on campus or in the community.”
To be inducted in the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame, a nominee must receive unanimous approval of the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame Award Sub-committee members.
“For many in my field, Dr. Kush’s name is synonymous with longleaf pine ecology and history will equate Dr. Kush with advancing the silvics of longleaf pine,” said McGuire. “His work has increased our understanding of longleaf pine growth and yield, longleaf pine old-growth dynamics, fire ecology and restoration.”
Inductees’ biographical sketch and portrait are enshrined within the Archives of the Ralph Brown Draughon Library at Auburn University, and engraved with the names of all inductees, by year of induction, within the Alabama Foresters’ Hall of Fame plaque that is permanently displayed at the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
“Dr. Kush is the embodiment of the servant leader that will make his name plate shine bright with the others on the Hall of Fame for the Society of American Foresters,” said McGuire.