Dan Harrington was five
or six years old when his grandfather first started taking him to Crex Meadows
Wildlife Area in western Wisconsin’s Burnett County.
family lived 40 miles away, and his grandfather, Chet Anderson, was a frequent
volunteer at Crex Meadows. By the time Harrington started high school, he was
counting sandhill cranes to estimate breeding pairs, banding trumpeter swans to
track mortality and listening for owl surveys.
it’s not surprising that Harrington chose the University of Wisconsin-Stevens
Point to pursue a degree in wildlife ecology. And after completing a bachelor’s
degree in May 2013, he returned to the College of Natural Resources last fall
to pursue a second major.
will be the first student to complete a new wildland fire science option in
natural resource management. The major was created to meet a growing need for
wildland fire professionals.
fire science involves understanding fire as a tool to manage ecosystems. “Fire
is a normal part of the natural environment,” Harrington said, and a key part
of sound forest management.
rejuvenates plant communities, such as prairie grasses and early-succession
shrubs and trees, which are important habitat for wildlife – which is important
to hunters. Freshly burned areas have higher nutrients.
Department of Natural Resources has used prescribed burns to manage habitat for
sharp-tailed grouse at Crex Meadows since 1948. This is the largest state-owned
property managed with prescribed fire.
this is the only realistic way to provide good habitat, I wanted to learn how
fire can be used safely to maintain other wildlife populations,” Harrington
Professor Ron Masters, who developed the wildland fire science program at
UW-Stevens Point, is proud of Harrington. “There could not have been a better
student to be the first graduate in this program,” he said. “Early on I was
impressed with his eagerness to learn.”
addition to coursework, Harrington participated in four prescribed burn trips
to Oklahoma and Florida. Masters organized spring break trips to Oklahoma for
the UWSP Fire Crew to burn 20 research units as part of a long-term study on
fire frequency as well as ecosystem restoration burns totaling 500
often fire is used directly determines what grows back in the long-term and
tree density,” Harrington said.
year, he was a crew leader for Masters’ fire experience course and successful
mentor, Masters said. “He took on each challenge with relish and has gained
some excellent experience with fire in a wide variety of fuel
types. He is level headed and kept his composure in all situations.”
get experience lighting fires, monitoring weather and wind, using radios and
preventing fire from leaving the area.
completed firefighting certification in his second year at UW-Stevens Point and
has been part of the UWSP Fire Crew.
is an exceptional student. He has all the makings of a life-long
learner. He is naturally inquisitive, highly self-motivated and a diligent and
said he appreciated the enthusiasm and interpersonal wisdom Masters and other
professors shared. Building relationships, he learned, was an important aspect
of resource management. “Just about every class touched on the need to
proactively communicate -- with landowners, with the public -- to discuss
options, because there are multiple ways to get to the same goal.”
will intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in New Richmond this summer
and hopes to eventually work for a federal or state agency, the Aldo Leopold
Center or Nature Conservancy.
has the capability of making a significant mark in natural resource
management,” Masters said.