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(Posted February 7, 2011)

Bridget Gross, a senior from Malvern, Pa. studying environmental science, tens to a chestnut seedling in Juniata's chestnut orchard.


HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Celebrated in poetry and prose, the American Chestnut tree largely disappeared from the hardwood forests of the United States in the first half of the 20th century, but scientists currently are engaged in projects to restore the majestic tree to the country's landscape. Uma Ramakrishnan, associate professor of environmental science, will talk about a Juniata College chestnut project at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 16 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.

Her lecture, "The American Chestnut as Service Learning Project at Juniata College," is free and open to the public. The Bookend Seminar series features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata College faculty.

Ramakrishnan will briefly cover the history of the American Chestnut tree, followed by an explanation of how the tree, which was decimated by the introduction of a fungal disease called chestnut blight, has been bred for blight resistance and incrementally re-introduced into hardwood forests.

Juniata has been involved with the restoration project since 2007, when Ramakrishnan and the college collaborated with the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation to develop a long-term research and educational outreach program focused on the historic tree species.

Ramakrishnan will detail the college's research project using a multi-species chestnut orchard located behind Brumbaugh Academic Center. She also will explain how student researchers have worked with nursery growers to improve seed germination. In addition, she will show the college's educational module on the American Chestnut recovery. She also will highlight the college's collaboration with Penn State's School of Forest Resources researching leaf morphology.

Ramakrishnan joined the Juniata faculty in 2005 as assistant professor of environmental science and studies. She earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry, zoology and environmental science in 1988 from St. Joseph's College in Bangalore, India. She went on to earn a master's degree in ecology in 1990 from Pondicherry University in Pondicherry, India. Her 1998 doctoral degree in ecology comes from the University of California, Davis, where her research focused on predator avoidance behavior in bonnet macaques (a species of Asian monkey).

She started her research career at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where she was chief deer research biologist from 2000 to 2005. Her research focuses male deer reproductive control. She also has studied deer-vehicle collisions and how collision frequency in male deer varies greatly according to season, as well as home-range use in suburban areas. At Juniata she has worked on restoration projects for the American Chestnut tree since 2007.

After completing her master's degree at Pondicherry University, Ramakrishnan worked as a conservation biologist from 1990 to 1994 at the Asian Elephant Conservation Center, International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Bangalore, India.

Ramakrishnan has collaborated on Pennsylvania deer studies including several deer population studies overseen by the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Wildlife Management Agency.

She has published her research in such journals as the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, Primates, Animal Conservation, Folia Primatologica, Ethology, the Journal of Comparative Psychology and Biological Conservation.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.