Texas A&M Forest Service celebrates successful year

Published: Nov. 17, 2017 at 9:06 PM CST
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Over 500 Texas A&M Forest Service employees came together at the agency’s annual personnel meeting Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Texas A&M Forest Service employees gathered to celebrate their dedication to the citizens and natural resources of Texas. The meeting, held at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas, serves as an opportunity to refocus the agency’s goals, as well as recognize long standing employees and acknowledge recipients of this year’s director’s awards.

“Today is about celebrating Texas A&M Forest Service. And for this agency — that means celebrating our people,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Director Tom Boggus. “We have committed, dedicated people who understand service and who work every day to build the capacity of others to meet our state’s challenges with innovative solutions.”

Fifty-six employees were recognized for five or more years of service, including Mark Gowanlock who celebrates 35 years at Texas A&M Forest Service this year.

Gowanlock, a resource specialist stationed in Marshall, collaborates with landowners to protect natural resources through management and stewardship plans, as well as reforestation efforts. Gowanlock was hired upon completion of an associate degree in forestry from Panola Junior College in Carthage.

“The reason I have stayed at TFS so long is because I like my job, the people I work with and meet and being outside, seeing things that most people don’t get to see,” said Gowanlock.

Additional awards were issued to the following Texas A&M Forest Service employees who have made significant contributions to the agency’s efforts over the year:

Director’s Award for Support Staff - Field: Logan Scherschel, Wildland Urban Interface Specialist, San Antonio

Scherschel has a long list of accomplishments including writing complex Community Wildfire Protection Plans, working with local officials to establish Firewise Communities, completing hazardous fuels reduction projects, providing Smokey Bear programs and delivering mitigation programs across the state. Scherschel is known to be an outstanding employee who is dedicated to the agency and its partners.

Director’s Award for Support Staff - Professional: Shruthi Srinivasan, Geospatial Analyst, College Station

Srinivasan is known for her outstanding work ethic and voracious appetite for learning new things related both directly and indirectly to her job. Her work on the interactive story maps and converting existing web applications to a responsive framework allow the public to explore programs in a compelling manner. Srinivasan has continually worked to improve her knowledge set by completing multiple trainings including Texas A&M University web developing, National Wildfire Coordinating Group basic fire training and the College Station Citizen Fire Academy program.

Director’s Award for Support Staff - Office: Krista Mattert, Computer Maintenance Technician, College Station

During her three years at TFS Mattert has changed the perception of the IR Help Desk and is known for her speed, accuracy and competence when resolving issues. In a given month, Mattert uses her incredible work ethic to support nearly half the agency’s employees in some way.

Charles Krenek Award for Resource Specialist

Bernie Buckner, Resource Specialist, Lufkin

Buckner has a servant’s heart and excels at serving clients with a spring in his step and a great attitude at being able to serve others. While seeking out opportunities to serve others with a willing attitude Buckner exemplifies the best attributes of a Resource Specialist and embodies the spirit of Charles Kreneck.

Director’s Award for Technical Forestry

Andrew Crocker, Staff Forester, Kerrville

Crocker is considered to be an excellent model of an Forest Inventory Analysis Forester and has demonstrated great professionalism and work ethic. He continually makes himself available to assist other FIA foresters and played a large role in completing the initial installation of Urban FIA plots in the City of Austin. Often, Crocker can be found helping with oak wilt landowner assistance and local conservation education programs.

D.A. “Andy” Anderson I&E Award

Zaina Gates, Staff Forester, College Station

Gates embraces the challenges that come with serving the citizens of the state of Texas and makes it her mission to ensure that every client is satisfied. Her tremendous work ethic has allowed her to deliver timely information to all facets of our customer base; students, Master Naturalist groups, homeowners, tree care professionals and the general public. Not only have Gates’ broad technical skills been put to good use all across the state, but she also exhibits an outstanding attitude with extremely high professionalism.

Director’s Award for Team Effort

West Texas Nursery Staff

Sharman Cook, Cameron Dudley, Serena Gaona, Mike Grau and Jonathan Motsinger

As the need for windbreak and conservation seedlings has declined during the last ten years, the West Texas Nursery has worked to adjust and thrive in a changing market. Contract growing has gone from being rarely discussed to a primary component of operations. The team has worked hard to overcome obstacles from limited knowledge of growing certain species to coordinating shipping and delivery of the seedlings. Each member of the team plays an important role and works hard to ensure success.

GIS Harvey Team

Greg Beard, Cynthia Foster, Don Hannemann, Raghu Modala, David Shoemate, Jordan Smith, Shruthi Srinivasan, Curt Stripling, Fernando Vara and Javier Vara

The GIS Harvey team worked tirelessly during hurricane response to provide accurate information and mapping tools, such as a public Points of Distribution map and a dashboard for Regional Staging Areas. The dashboard provided a live snapshot of food, water and ice received at all RSAs and distributed to Points of Distribution and was used as an internal tool for Texas Division of Emergency Management and the incident management teams managing the RSAs. The Survey123 app for AgriLife Extension agents was also developed for the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas to aid with data retrieval of local government issues as a result of the hurricane. In turn, the app was modified for use in a fire department damage assessment. From initial response to improving the way we assist other Texans the GIS Harvey team proved to be a valuable group during hurricane response.