Professor earns more than $2 million in grants

Pinecones of various sizes lie in piles, and paintings of trees and waterfalls adorn the walls of Lisa Samuelson's office.

"When I was younger, I liked writing and being outdoors," Samuelson said. "I thought about writing for an outdoor magazine, but there wasn't much of a career in that."

Samuelson, professor of forestry, has worked at Auburn since 1994. Her work has helped Auburn receive two grants for pine research.

Auburn, along with 10 other institutions, is a partner in a project funded by the U.S. government to study carbon sequestration and climate change effects on loblolly pines.

Auburn will receive $580,000.

Samuelson said the project should be ready to start by April 1.

Auburn was also awarded $1.8 million of a $2.43 million grant by the Department of Defense as the lead institution to research longleaf pine ecosystems.

"We began looking into loblolly pine because it has been getting more attention recently," Samuelson said. "It is endangered, but has a life span of around 400 years approximately. We want to find the long-term impact they have on carbon sequestration."

Samuelson said she plans to work on the projects and teach as long as she can.

"The two grants have been the pinnacle of my career, and I will do the best that I can," Samuelson said. "Educating the students from what we learn will be the most rewarding."

Samuelson said she went to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority for two years as a researcher, but her heart wasn't in it.

"I missed teaching and being around students on a college campus," Samuelson said.

In 1994, she became assistant professor of tree physiology.

"I teach undergraduate and graduate courses of tree physiology," Samuelson said. "I also taught dendrology, which is tree identification, for 13 years."

Sarah Lesley, junior in forestry, said Samuelson's tree physiology class was a challenge.

"She expected a lot, but she gave us the necessary material to do well," Lesley said. "She takes time to go over everything and makes sure we understand."

Lesley said she admires Samuelson's accomplishments.

"She helped make me feel less weird for being a girl in forestry," Lesley said. "She has been where I am and succeeded."

Samuelson now focuses more on research with the start of the Center for Longleaf Pine Ecosystems, which is housed in the forestry department.

Tom Stokes, research assistant, said he helped Samuelson start the center and runs the day-to-day research.

"The longleaf pine doesn't get as much attention as other pines," Stokes said. "There was a niche there for research opportunities."

Stokes said he has been working for Samuelson since he was an undergrad at Auburn.

"I've worked for her since 1996," Stokes said. "I couldn't imagine working for anyone else. She's more than a boss--she's a friend."

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