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The College of Natural Resources and Environment Advancing the Science of Sustainability

The College of Natural Resources and Environment

A commitment to sustainability as an environmental imperative as well as a sound business strategy is the foundational strength of the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. The concept of sustainability continues to move into the global mainstream culture and is a passion of the young people who come to the college. Advancing the science of sustainability, the college’s brand promise, is a position of great potential — relevant to the university, the state, the country, and the world; relevant to landowners, businesses, and industry; and relevant to our students, their future careers, and their ability to sustain quality of life on Earth. The College of Natural Resources and Environment is about the things people value — water, trees, forests, fish, wildlife, renewable materials, and physical and cultural environments. Our rich heritage in these disciplines, as well as our proven accomplishment and leadership, position us at the foundation of sustainability. We are developing the next generation of foresters, land managers, biologists, geographers, biomaterials experts, scientists, and leaders. Our responsibility to society, our students, and the environment is to look forward. The College of Natural Resources and Environment is more relevant than at any time in the past, and we are moving forward. We invite you to be a part of our future.


Inside the College 3

The College of Natural Resources and Environment ( 3 3 5 6 8 10 11

Introduction — Advancing the Science of Sustainability College History Discovery — Traditional areas and new topics Research Centers and Cooperatives Learning — College-level courses and capstone experiences Engagement — Outreach to individuals, communities, and industry Measures of Excellence

13 Departments and Degree Programs 15 Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation ( 19 Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation ( 23 Department of Geography ( 27 Department of Sustainable Biomaterials ( 31 Experience Sustainability 31 Contact Information 32 People, Our Most Important Resource Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Anyone having questions concerning discrimination or accessibility should contact the Office for Equity and Access. Cover photo of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park by Charles Hull. Over the years, professors in the college have carried out various research projects in the park focusing on sustainability, from trail assessments to water and air quality studies.

Sciencing Sustainability


Sciencing Sustainability

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and the rest of nature can exist in productive harmony for the present and future. In ecology, sustainability describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive. For humans, sustainability has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship — the responsible management of resource use.


The College of Natural Resources and Environment Advancing the Science of Sustainability The College of Natural Resources and Environment prepares the future generation of leaders to address the complex natural resources issues and environmental challenges facing our planet. Worldclass faculty members lead transformational research that complements the student learning experience and impacts people and communities across the state and around the world on issues of sustainability, natural resources management, and the environment. Who we are The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech is an innovative, international leader in environmental and natural resources science and education. What we do The college creates and shares the knowledge needed to sustain clean air, clean and plentiful water, productive soil, healthy forests, and physical and cultural diversity, and to provide renewable materials, products, and energy. We train professionals and leaders capable of balancing conservation, management, and the use of natural resources in the context of ecological, political, and economic challenges. We conduct relevant, timely, and cost-effective research on the critical issues of conservation, management, and sustainable use of natural resources. Why we do it Profitable enterprise and quality of life demand materials and energy from renewable sources. Life on Earth requires a sustainable planet — clean air and plentiful water for thriving ecosystems that support many kinds of life. The materials we extract, the water we use, and the air we breathe we share with all life — now and in the future. How we do it The College of Natural Resources and Environment is advancing the science of sustainability through discovery, learning, and engagement.

College History 1925 – First forestry professor hired. 1935 – First federally funded U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit established at Virginia Tech. 1938 – First bachelor of science degrees in conservation and forestry offered. 1969 – Department of Forestry and Wildlife created within the College of Agriculture. 1974 – Forestry and Wildlife split into the Department of Forestry and Forest Products and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. 1975 – Department of Geography created. 1976 – School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources created within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 1979 – Forestry and Forest Products split into the Department of Forestry and the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products. 1992 – College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources created. 2000 – College renamed the College of Natural Resources. 2003 – Master of Natural Resources program established in the National Capital Region. 2004 – Department of Geography joins the college. 2005 – Virginia Water Resources Research Center joins the college. 2009 – Department of Forestry renamed the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. 2010 – College renamed the College of Natural Resources and Environment. 2010 – Leadership Institute created for undergraduate students. 2011 – Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences renamed the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. 2012 – Department of Wood Science and Forest Products renamed the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. 2012 – Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability created to house graduate programs in the National Capital Region.


Sciencing is an emerging term meaning the act of doing science.

Sciencing Sustainability


Discovery — Research for Environmental Sustainability The College of Natural Resources and Environment is a global leader in transformational research impacting environmental sustainability. World-class faculty members lead interdisciplinary teams that use the latest technologies to explore, investigate, and create solutions for the natural resources and environmental problems facing the world. This research creates the knowledge that future generations can build upon to help develop solutions to the world’s complex environmental issues. Beginning with the hiring of the first professor of forestry in 1925, the college’s programs have been responsible for re-establishing forests, protecting land and water resources worldwide, and building an economically viable American forest products industry. Preserving wildlife and fisheries soon became a priority, and recent decades have seen an additional focus on creating biobased materials for energy and medical applications, using geographic information systems and remote sensing systems to enhance the use of lands and protect lives, and preserving biodiversity by addressing resource clashes and disease transmission at the human-wildlife interface. Through the entrepreneurial efforts of the faculty, the college is home to more than 20 centers and cooperatives. For example: ■ The Center for Environmental Applications of Remote Sensing provides leadership and support in the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies to further our understanding of the Earth’s major biogeochemical cycles, the factors affecting biological diversity and ecosystem structure, and changes in land use and land cover critical to ecosystem function and human welfare. Applications include forest inventory, urban tree canopy assessment, carbon monitoring and

management, mined-land restoration, and wetland mapping. ■ The Conservation Management Institute is an active partner in the management of natural resources in Virginia, across North America, and around the world. Institute project teams comprised of staff, faculty members, and students engage natural resources management agencies and organizations to understand their objectives and constraints in order to produce quality solutions through hard work and the application of sound science. Institute staff employ a range of skills, knowledge, and talents with particular strengths in field ecology, geospatial information technology, resource assessment, and logistical support. ■ The Forest Productivity Cooperative, a university-industry partnership that has worked with forest landowners in the United States and Latin America for more than 40 years, provides forest managers with the tools needed to understand soil, water, and nutrient availability in forest ecosystems and how they can be managed to increase the productivity and sustainability of plantation forestry. ■ The Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center is a cooperative research and propagation facility created to restore imperiled freshwater mollusks in Virginia and adjacent states. Beginning in 1978,

6 the U.S. Geological Survey’s Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit began lifehistory research on endangered mussels. Graduate student research has provided the knowledge and expertise to implement a propagation program. In 1997, the first propagated juveniles of a federally endangered species were released. In 2000, a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and matching funds from other agencies supported construction of a building and pond complex to enhance the conservation aquaculture work. Over the last 10 years, the production of juvenile mussels of 10 to 12 species has increased to more than 50,000 each year for release to rivers. ■ The Virginia Water Resources Research Center, created by the federal Water Resources Research Act of 1964, is affiliated with the U.S. Geological Survey and is also a state agency. It supports interdisciplinary water and related land research and educational projects, and is an information resource for citizens, policymakers, water specialists, and professionals. Fifteen graduate students receive research funding through the water center and as many as 10 undergraduate students are supported each year. Faculty members and students are conducting local, national, and international research on water quality to determine and implement Best Management Practices.

■ The Wood-Based Composites Center is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center focused on research and education to advance the science and technology of wood-based materials used in manufacturing. It was established with industry funding in 1999. Industry members interact with students and faculty members from the center’s academic partners: the University of British Columbia, the University of Maine, Oregon State University, and Virginia Tech. In addition to the work of the centers and cooperatives, faculty members in the college are among the most efficient at Virginia Tech in terms of research funding per faculty member. For example, a $20-million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has been awarded to a consortium that includes Virginia Tech’s forestry researchers to study the effects of changing climate on southern pine forests. And the National Science Foundation awarded a $1.5-million Faculty Early Career Development grant to advance the work of an outstanding young researcher in the college to gain insight into how tree populations adapt at the genomic scale as a result of climate change. Evolving fields of research include ecotoxicology — the ecological impact of

Research Centers and Cooperatives

■ Forest Modeling Research

■ Sustainable Engineered

■ Biobased Materials Center ■ Center for Environmental

■ Forest Productivity Cooperative ■ Forest Operations and Business

■ USDA Forest Service Southern

Applications of Remote Sensing

■ Center for Forest Products Business


Research Cooperative

■ Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center

Materials Institute

Research Station: Center for Aquatic Technology Transfer, Forest Watershed Science Research Work Unit, and Utilization of Southern Forest Resources Research Work Unit

■ Center for Geospatial Information ■ National Science Foundation

■ USDA National Agroforestry

■ Center for Leadership in Global

■ USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research



■ Center for Natural Resources

Assessment and Decision Support

■ Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design

■ Conservation Management Institute

Center for Advanced Forestry Systems


■ Natural Resources Distance


Learning Consortium

■ Office of Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing

■ Reynolds Homestead Forest Resources Research Center

■ USGS Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

■ Virginia Water Resources Research Center

■ Wood-Based Composites Center


Young Teck Kim and his research group are developing differentiated and competitive packaging systems using biobased products and production technologies through international collaborations. Their goal is to “Invent the Future” of the sustainable packaging world.

environmental toxicants such as herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals on the physiology, nutrition, endocrinology, and development of wildlife. Our expertise has been called upon to study the two highest profile pollution incidents in decades: College wildlife researchers received $3.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior to study the ecological effects of the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and nearly $1.8 million from the Tennessee Valley Authority to study the impacts of the massive coal fly ash spill in Tennessee.

As a result of our research acumen in advanced biomaterials, a Department of Sustainable Biomaterials faculty member leads the Biobased Materials Center within the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Advanced Science, and two others from the department are active in the center. They are collaborating with faculty members from engineering and chemistry to develop biobased materials for use as fuels, for applications ranging from plastics to human implants, and to enhance the bioavailability of medicines so they are better absorbed by the body.

College researchers are partners in university strategic initiatives. For instance, as part of the strategic focus on human health, our medical geography researchers received funding from the National Science Foundation to determine the impact of environmental variables on the emergence of Lyme disease in Virginia. Similarly, as part of the university’s strategic focus on environmental research, the College of Natural Resources and Environment is partnering with the College of Engineering on a study in Northern Virginia on the impacts of urbanization on water quality and quantity.

For example, our faculty members are designing cellulose nanocrystals to deliver anticancer drugs directly to cancerous tissue while bypassing healthy cells, and are using nanomaterials from plants and such sources as agriculture and paper waste to create films, foams, fabrics, electronics, and biomedical tissue scaffolds. The work to develop new methods of cellulose synthesis for use in medicine and other products is supported by two NIFA grants totaling more than $1.3 million to Department of Sustainable Biomaterials faculty members, as well as additional grants to other Biobased Materials Center researchers.


Learning — Students Inventing a Sustainable Future The College of Natural Resources and Environment is nationally and internationally recognized for its undergraduate and graduate education. Programs focus on managing natural resources and preserving the diversity of the Earth’s physical and cultural environments. The college’s world-class faculty is dedicated to mentoring students through experiential learning toward the development of sustainable solutions to society’s natural resources-related problems. Current and future challenges and opportunities across the landscape of natural resources and the environment require a blend of scientific know-how and leadership. The College of Natural Resources and Environment is equipping students with the skills and experiences needed to solve critical problems facing society in the management and use of our natural resources and in environmental stewardship. In 2010, we created the college-level Leadership Institute, a signature program for select rising juniors and seniors to study leadership styles and profiles, and to assess their own leadership potential. They meet with state and federal government and nongovernmental organization leaders and experience organizational, political, and agency processes and leadership at all levels. The students then work on group projects that require leadership skills to accomplish goals. The Leadership Institute complements our strong technical foundation and the capstone experiences offered in every academic program. In addition, research experiences and internships are available to undergraduate students in every

major. Students survey wildlife populations — from big cats in the jungles of Central America and Asia to migrating birds that stop on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Students also study endangered mussels in the rivers of Virginia and Tennessee and sharks along the coasts of America and Asia. They measure glacial runoff in Alaska and tree growth at alpine elevations. Internships include placing meteorology students at the National Weather Service Forecast Office, forestry students with the U.S. Forest Service, and sustainable biomaterials students with forest products and packaging firms. Several graduate-level interdisciplinary programs are offered. A doctoral program that combines geospatial science with environmental analysis addresses a broad range of contemporary natural resources and environmental issues. A second doctoral program combines biomaterials development and commercialization. We are actively engaged in an inter-collegiate molecular plant sciences graduate program. An Executive Master of Natural Resources program offered in the National Capital Region under the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability emphasizes the need for effective partnerships and

Sciencing Sustainability


Kathleen Alexander (left) travels to Botswana twice a year with her team of graduate students, where her research focuses on community-wildlife interactions, infectious diseases, water quality, and natural resources sustainability. Her goal is to give local communities the tools they need to develop their own solutions to environmental challenges.

cross-cultural collaboration among business, civil society, and government. The students, who have diverse undergraduate degrees and careers in engineering, architecture, environmental science, and city planning, work in teams on projects for real-world clients such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Forest Service. A student group designed a sustainability strategy for the Linden Centre, a leading hotel and educational tourism provider near Dali City, China, in the Upper Mekong River watershed. All aspects of the program — including coursework, an international residency, and capstone projects — are designed to bring about institutional and policy change as well as personal and cultural transformation. In fact, we strive to engage all of our students in programs that will expand international perspectives. We have exchange programs with the University of Hamburg in Germany, the University

of Austral in Chile, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland, Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. There are study abroad programs all over the world, including opportunities to study the interaction of landscapes and culture in such diverse locations as Canada and the Dominican Republic. Marine and freshwater fisheries and aquaculture training is offered on the high seas near Australia, in the Yangtze River of China, along streams in African nations, and in closed aquaculture systems in Oman, Mexico, and Israel. Our students and graduates tell us that they appreciate the opportunities to follow different passions and interests, and that varied experiences prove to be professionally helpful. Employers find such experiences add value to graduates’ skills. They report that when students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, they enter the workplace with broader perspective, more curiosity and passion, and a can-do attitude.


Engagement — Partnering for Sustainable Solutions The College of Natural Resources and Environment’s engagement program partners with landowners and communities to provide science-based solutions to natural resources and environmental issues facing the world. Its goal is to improve the lives of the citizens of Virginia and beyond by providing information to make better decisions to sustainably manage and use natural resources. A central mission of the College of Natural Resources and Environment is to serve people’s needs through outreach and engagement, which takes the form of economic development, youth and teacher education, continuing and professional education, and international development. In addition to traditional programs, such as workshops for children, our Virginia Cooperative Extension programs serve individuals, communities, and industry. One such Extension program is the nationally award-winning Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, which addresses such topics as land fragmentation, invasive species, water quality, wildland fire, land protection, and wildland/urban interface issues. Also highly successful are the Virginia SHARP Logger Program and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program. Partnerships with communities such as the Grayson County LandCare group address natural resources conservation and development

issues. The former Catawba Hospital dairy farm west of Roanoke is an Extension Demonstration Area focused on conservation of natural resources, as well as an outstanding resource for the college’s teaching and research. Economic development programs include helping landowners develop small woodlots, improving aquaculture business management practices and production stocks, enhancing tourist destinations, and working with community colleges to meet the need for workers savvy in geospatial technology. Building on existing forest products programs in Extension and the Center for Forest Products Business, the college works with the offices of the Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to make Virginia forest products more globally competitive. For example, the college is developing engineering systems for industry, such as for solid door manufacturing at a Smyth County firm and for hardwood finishing at a Martinsville firm.

The college reaches hundreds of children each year through 4-H education programs and other engagement projects. Here, elementary school students view juvenile mussels they had just planted in a riverbed to help restore native populations.

11 Natural resources programs for K-12 teachers benefit youth and teacher education. We also participate with the Governor’s School for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Our 4-H education programs have touched the lives of thousands of young people across Virginia. Continuing education features many offerings, including the popular Master Naturalist Program funded by Virginia Cooperative Extension. Courses for government agencies, private industry, nongovernment organizations, and the general public include packaging science, unit load design, nontimber forest products marketing, adhesive bonding, natural resources leadership, timber harvesting, and forest nutrition. College faculty members and graduate students are strong participants in international research and development. The college conducts research and

maintains partnerships in more than 30 countries, including collaboration with the Caribbean Center for Education and Research in the Dominican Republic, the Las Cuevas Research Center in Belize, the Water Center at the University Austral in Chile, and the Virginia Tech Asian Center. We are providing graduate training at Austral for future Chilean professors and aquaculture practices training in Indonesia. In Belize, students’ tasks range from sophisticated ecosystem studies to helping mangrove farmers water trees and pick up litter. The Global Sustainability Initiative, developed by college faculty members from the National Capital Region, offers a variety of services. Students apply their educations as part of a consulting team performing service-learning projects for international clients and partner organizations while researchers develop solutions to meet environmental conservation and economic development goals.

Sciencing Sustainability The College of Natural Resources and Environment is progressive, relevant, impactful, focused, and timely. We are working on the important issues of preserving ecosystems and biodiversity while enhancing water, energy, and economic security. We are advancing the science of sustainability and making a difference today while training students to be advocates and leaders for sustainability in the future.

Measures of Excellence ■ The wildlife program was

ranked number one and the fisheries program number two by the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs.

■ The forestry program

was ranked number two in a national study by Auburn University.

■ The sustainable

biomaterials program is one of the leading such programs in North America.

■ According to the National Research Council, the graduate program in forestry is one of the best in the nation. ■ The college’s Ph.D. graduates are highly sought after for faculty positions at other universities. We have graduates in many of the top natural resources programs in North America. ■ The Society of American Foresters student chapter placed first in the outstanding student chapter competition. ■ The meteorology degree in the Department of Geography, approved in 2011, is the first of its kind in Virginia.

■ Students consistently give their professors’ teaching in all four departments the top ranking — between 3.5 and 4.0 on a scale of 4.0.

■ The National Science

Foundation has ranked the university’s agricultural science research program, which includes natural resources research, in the top 10 among the nation’s universities and colleges since 2006.

■ The college’s Center

for Leadership in Global Sustainability is accelerating its program to provide leadership needed to steer the world into a sustainable future.


An ecosystem is a community of living organisms, such as plants, animals, and microbes, that have a unifying relationship within and with their environment, functioning as a system.

Sciencing Sustainability


Departments and Degree Programs Each of the college’s four departments — Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Geography, and Sustainable Biomaterials — gives students opportunities for different kinds of experiences so they may discover themselves and their interests. Majors and options provide academic focus for a solid knowledge base, and capstone experiences provide students with real-world perspective, hands-on practice, and confidence that they can apply what they have learned. Research partnerships with business, industry, government, and the public sector keep the departments’ education, research, and engagement programs relevant and sharp — and among the best and most effective in North America. All departments offer undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs. For a complete list, visit the college’s homepage ( and select Students. In addition, master’s degree programs are offered in the National Capital Region (


Sciencing Sustainability Conservation is ethical stewardship for the preservation and protection — and sometimes restoration — of the natural environment and of human cultures.


Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation ( We are passionate about conservation and management of animal populations, working within our society to sustain these valued living resources. Learning We nurture our students to be leaders in making legacy decisions to preserve and protect life on Earth. Because the more challenging and rewarding jobs require a master’s degree, our programs emphasize preparation for graduate study. The department has two majors.

animals, facilities, and equipment nationwide. Through federal partnerships, the college provides students with research and education opportunities, from monitoring horseshoe crab abundance along the Atlantic coast to studying marine fisheries population dynamics off the Florida Keys.

The Fisheries Science major focuses on the ecology and management of aquatic animals and ecosystems. Areas of study include wild fish, shellfish, threatened and endangered species, and aquaculture. The major’s Marine Fisheries option emphasizes the diversity of sea life, the chemical and physical nature of oceans, methods for collecting data about marine populations, and marine fisheries management.

Study abroad programs have taken students to Belize to examine such issues as wildlife conservation, with particular focus on the jaguar, and to nations in Africa and Central America to help prevent human-wildlife encounters and resource conflicts. In Botswana, for example, researchers seek to help residents escape from poverty by using their land and natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The Wildlife Science major emphasizes research and management of terrestrial animals and ecosystems, including game and nongame birds and mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and threatened and endangered species.

Jobs Career options include fisheries manager, wildlife manager, wildlife biologist, wildlife refuge manager, game warden, fish ecologist, park or field naturalist, zookeeper, and wildlife or fisheries scientist or technician. Our graduates also find jobs as conservation officers, endangered species management officers, environmental consultants, environmental educators, conservation and research biologists, GIS programmers and computer mapping specialists, public affairs specialists, and fisheries and wildlife journalists. While jobs are typically in the public sector, private sector employment has grown in response to increased awareness of environmental issues.

Capstone experiences Undergraduate students gain hands-on experience through cooperative education, internships, directed research, and volunteer positions. Cooperative units of the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provide students access to lands, waters,


There are jobs with environmental consulting firms, forest products companies, public utilities, and conservation groups. Aquaculturists work in both public agencies and private firms. Research in the department While most animal research occurs in the field, the department also has facilities for studying captive bears and other animals, laboratories well outfitted for studying reptiles and amphibians, cutting-edge facilities for conservation aquaculture research, and a state-of-the-art aviary for research and teaching. Fisheries research addresses the quality of aquatic resources through conservation of streams, rivers, and other aquatic systems; restoration and protection of habitat; modeling and management of marine resources; watershed management; and quantitative decision support systems. Research on aquatic life takes the form of bioassessment and monitoring of fish and shellfish, and applied fish and shellfish ecology, such as management of horseshoe crabs and freshwater mussels. For example, the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center at Virginia Tech is a cooperative research and propagation facility to restore and recover endangered freshwater mollusks in Virginia and adjacent states. These modest-appearing creatures filter large volumes of water, cleaning streams and rivers and creating healthy habitats for other forms of life. The center produces 50,000 or more juveniles of 10 to 12 endangered species each year for release into rivers. Aquaculture research includes recirculating water systems, developing methods for culturing new species, and improving aquaculture stock. Management and policy research includes bioethics, aquaculture

biotechnology and related public policy, and large-scale freshwater ecosystem conservation planning and policy. Wildlife researchers look at animals, their behavior, and their habitats, including animal and ecosystem health worldwide; population dynamics and conservation biology; management of endangered species, such as big cats, and


of not-so-endangered species, such as whitetailed deer; ecology and management of bats and other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians; wetlands and wetland wildlife ecology; landscape effects on reproduction and dispersal of wildlife; wildlife physiology and environmental toxicology; tropical ecology and conservation; predator ecology and conservation; and predator-prey interactions.

Researchers also look at the human dimension of fisheries and wildlife management, such as leadership and administration in natural resource agencies; public involvement in resource decision making; and sustainability science, ecological economics, conservation biology, and natural resources policy. Engagement Engagement activities related to fisheries are focused on preserving aquatic diversity, from fish to crayfish and mussels. Strategies include managing wetlands and reducing pesticides and other pollutants. Assistance is provided to landowners to create ponds and manage lakes, where issues include invasive weeds, sedimentation, and nuisance fishes. Supporting commercial aquaculture is an economic development priority. Wildlife management issues addressed by Extension and outreach include preventing damage, such as from deer and beavers; protecting and managing endangered species; and managing diseases, such as rabies and West Nile virus. Educating Virginia’s youth on endangered species, resources management, and causes of species imperilment is a priority. The future The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation will continue to develop its wildlife physiology and toxicology capabilities, focusing on waterfowl and aquatic reptiles. It will further research the transmission of diseases among wildlife and humans. The department will expand its conservation aquaculture research, education, and engagement activities. The instructional program will broaden to include coastal ecology and management.

Photo by USFS Region 5


Sciencing Sustainability

Environment is the sum total of all conditions on Earth — nurturing and damaging, including living organisms, natural forces, and man-made conditions.


Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation ( Our focus is the science and applications needed to sustainably manage forests and conserve other natural resources. From protected-areas management and economic policy to forest soil productivity, urbanization, and genomics, we seek new knowledge and technology to address the global challenges to come, including use of geographic information systems and environmental analysis. The department is nationally ranked and is a University Exemplary Department. In addition to many rising young faculty members, the department has several professors with named endowments, a University Distinguished Professor, and an Alumni Distinguished Professor. Learning We approach critical natural resources issues from many disciplinary perspectives. The department offers three majors, each with options. The Forestry major uses the latest research and technology to manage and conserve forests and natural resources wisely for the benefit of society. Forestry majors may choose from three options: ■ The Forest Resources Management option focuses on the regeneration, growth, protection, management, and sustainability of forest ecosystems. Students learn to manage forested landscapes to provide society with a renewable supply of forest products as well as clean water, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, and environmental quality. ■ The Forest Operations and Business option is centered on harvesting and reforestation operations and business management. In addition to sales training, the program prepares students to make decisions related to timber harvest, with an emphasis on efficient, economic, safe, and environmentally sound practices.

■ The Urban Forestry option — the first in the country to receive Society of American Foresters accreditation — prepares students for careers in planning and managing urban forests and landscapes in cities, towns, and other urban areas with a focus on the biological, socio-economic, and policy issues that influence urban forest ecosystems.

20 The Environmental Resources Management major focuses on using the latest science and technology to manage and conserve environmental resources wisely. Students may choose from two options: ■ In the Environmental Resources Management option, students study such environmental issues as forest resources, soils, water, environmental law, policy and planning, and environmental economics. ■ In the Watershed Management option, students learn about water quality, stream and wetland ecology, and hydrology. The Natural Resources Conservation major combines environmental and social sciences to manage forested lands and other natural systems for sustainable outdoor recreation. There are three options: ■ The Conservation and Recreation Management option prepares students to manage natural environments that provide enjoyment to people. Courses in ecological, natural, and social sciences, and planning, tourism, and business management are combined to bring about an understanding of recreational resources. ■ The Environmental Education option offers a balance of natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities to prepare students to share their knowledge about the natural world as environmental educators and interpreters. ■ The Natural Resources Science Education option emphasizes natural sciences and field experience, and provides a technical natural resources background with a focus on teaching, education, and interpretation. Capstone experiences Undergraduate research opportunities range from working on faculty projects to developing independent research projects under faculty supervision. In addition to a capstone experience, students in the Forest Resources Management

and Forest Operations and Business options take an intensive field-skills course at the end of their sophomore year, plus a nine-day field experience at the end of their junior year for hands-on work in sustainable forest and environmental management. Internships are available with organizations such as the Virginia Department of Forestry. At the Matthews State Forest, students surveyed the American chestnut orchard, carried out prescribed burns, conducted educational programs for children and herbicide and pesticide training for the public, and performed trail work and management, watershed management, and stream buffer zone improvement. Service learning is also encouraged. For example, students worked with Catawba Valley landowners as part of an agroforestry course. The students’ property and landscape-level assessments helped landowners integrate trees and crops, and the students learned to meet the varying needs of different landowners.

21 Jobs Careers exist in forestry and natural resources science, management, and conservation. Jobs are found with public agencies, private industry, and firms that deal with forest or wetland protection, endangered species, watershed planning and management, and the urban-rural interface. Graduates also work in several fields of education, such as elementary education and earth science, agricultural, environmental, and nature education. Geographic information systems and environmental analysts are needed in the public and private sectors. Research in the department The department has more than 2,000 acres of forested land for research use as well as stateof-the-art laboratories and greenhouses. Areas of research include forest biology, biometrics, and geomatics; forest economics, policy, and management; forest genetics and biotechnology; hydrology and watershed management; human dimensions of natural resources management; forest operations and business; forest soils, silviculture, and ecology; natural resources recreation; and urban forest ecology and

management. For example, the Center for Advanced Forestry Systems, a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, is addressing such complex, industry-wide problems as developing growth and yield predictions for specific characteristics such as wood quality. The mission is to optimize genetic and cultural systems to produce highquality raw forest materials for new and existing products. Collaborative research transcends tree species, regions, and disciplinary boundaries. Engagement Engagement includes 4-H, youth education, and the Big Tree and Remarkable Tree programs of Virginia. The SHARP Logger Program offers participants guidance in being safe, efficient, and legal while also protecting water resources. Volunteers trained to become Certified Virginia Master Naturalists complete 40 hours of service in education, citizen science, or stewardship, such as providing after-school programs at grade schools to increase the time students spend outside connecting with nature. The Virginia Landowner Education Program offers courses, workshops, and field trips to help private landowners better steward their forest land. The Real Forestry for Real Estate program educates new forest landowners about the importance of the resources they own and provides continuing education for real estate professionals. Researchers have developed a website, software program, and smartphone app that are the definitive tools for learning how to identify trees. Originally developed for the classroom, the resource is now used worldwide by natural resources professionals and the general public. The future The Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation will continue to maintain its core strengths in forest resource management while adding new and innovative programs such as environmental informatics and water resources. Keeping programs relevant is critical to maintaining the excellence and competitiveness of the department.


Sciencing Sustainability

Diversity is the variability among living organisms and within and between ecosystems, including cultural variety and cultural differences in human society. Here, students explore a virtual landscape.


Department of Geography ( We appreciate and understand the diversity of the Earth’s physical and cultural environments, the importance and value of a spatial perspective in solving local and global problems, and the complex interrelationships between people and their environment at a variety of scales. Learning The department provides courses in human geography, physical geography, geospatial information science, world landscapes, and meteorology. Geography majors may choose from two options: ■ In the Culture, Regions, and International Development option, students study critical issues involving society, economy, and resources. Key themes are population and resources, cultural impacts of technology, culture and gender, land-use patterns, health and environment, the significance of location to people and places, relationships between rural and urban areas, developed and developing countries, globalization, and international development.

geographic information systems (GIS), the global positioning system (GPS), and remote sensing. The study of physical geography examines human-environment interactions and processes affecting climate, land forms, vegetation, soils, and water. The Meteorology major prepares students for careers in meteorology and weather forecasting. Study also includes a significant focus on geospatial information technology and its ability to unite data from both the natural and human environments. Students learn to predict severe weather and to assess its impacts on ground features, such as the effect of flooding on soil loss and avalanche danger, and on the human environment, from building and road damage to loss of life. In addition to weather prediction, graduates are prepared for careers in geospatial analysis dealing with the physical environment.

■ In the Geospatial and Environmental Analysis option, students study ways geographic information is collected, stored, mapped, and integrated into databases and decision-making systems, using such geospatial technology as

Because weather is impacted by the terrain over which it occurs, the Department of Geography applies its strength in GIS to complement traditional atmospheric meteorology.

24 Capstone experiences A geography field experience is required in which students are given an opportunity to learn “on the job” and to apply skills and knowledge gained in the classroom. Students choose from an internship, study abroad, undergraduate research, or service learning. For example, students taught basic geography to children in a grassroots school in a Haitian immigrant community in the Dominican Republic. Armed with maps and globes donated by the Virginia Geographic Alliance and school supplies donated by a local church, the students taught about 70 children their first geography lesson ever. The students also sponsored a small “seed” loan program to help local women with a candle-making business. Jobs Geography graduates support decision making in natural resources management and conservation, planning, intelligence, agriculture, public safety, facilities management, and economic development, including ecotourism. Meteorology graduates are in demand by such agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and by environmental nonprofits. Cartography, GIS, and remote sensing skills are in demand in both the public and private sectors. Research in the department Research topics include physical geography, meteorology, and biogeography, which is the geographical distribution of plants and animals. Examples of biogeography and physical geography research include the impact of climate change on the alpine tree line and other vegetation dynamics; human-environment interaction in a number of locales, from the Caribbean to Appalachia; land use and land cover change; fire and fire history; and watershed assessment and modeling. In cultural realms, researchers study the use of public spaces, urban-political geography, agricultural geography, and history. Medical geography research includes how climate impacts the emergence of disease.

Meteorology research includes climatology, such as climate change, forecasting, and the science of severe weather; and hydroclimatology, such as drought and water resources. A unique attribute of the Virginia Tech program is the study of how landform affects weather by combining expertise in geography and use of related technology with traditional atmospheric meteorology. Technology advances study in all of these areas. Research includes digital image analysis, quantitative methods, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), all types of spatial modeling, GIS uncertainty, and spatial decision support in GIS. Some technology applications are unmanned vehicle navigation, cartography, language mapping, biosecurity, epidemiology, and creation of virtual reality environments. Engagement The two major outreach and engagement wings of the Department of Geogaphy are the VirginiaView program, co-led with the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, and the Virginia Geographic Alliance.

25 The VirginiaView program, dedicated to increasing the application of digital satellite imagery and related geospatial data in research, outreach, and instructional arenas in Virginia, has been housed in the Department of Geography since 2003. It is an affiliate of AmericaView Inc., a nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. Geological Survey. Individual “stateview” organizations are university-led consortiums of educational institutions, state and local governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other entities within each state. VirginiaView consists of nine such organizations: Virginia Tech, George Mason University, the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, the Virginia Geographic Alliance, the Virginia Geographic Information Network, and the U.S. Geological Survey Eastern Region Geography Office. VirginiaView’s mission encompasses many dimensions of the acquisition, analysis, and application of geospatial data to practical problems in varied fields of inquiry, including natural resources, geography, geosciences,

and agriculture. Activities include support of K-12 and community college outreach. VirginiaView’s goals are to facilitate distribution of geospatial data to a broad spectrum of users; cultivate the geospatial user community through informational programs, workshops, and development of educational resources; and strengthen and enlarge the coalition of VirginiaView partners through sharing of goals, mutual support, and close communication. The Virginia Geographic Alliance is a nonprofit educational organization supported by the National Geographic Society and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its goal is to ensure that geography is well taught and well learned. The alliance sponsors activities aimed at K12 curriculum development, teacher training, assessment, and public awareness. Founded in 1986 as one of the first 13 state alliances, the Virginia Geographic Alliance secured its operating budget through the Virginia Department of Education, Radford University, and legislative budget amendments for Radford University until 1998, when the state support budget was moved to Virginia Tech. The funding has been enhanced by earnings from a $1 million endowment managed by the National Geographic Society’s Education Foundation. Oversight of the alliance is handled by the Department of Geography, and our faculty regularly participate in its activities as part of our engagement with the K-12 teacher community. The future Geography is continuing to grow as a department at all academic levels with its new degree in meteorology, the development of a new minor in sustainability, and the continuing emergence of geobased services. These services, which employ Internet mapping, geographic information science, remote sensing, and global positioning systems in vehicles and cell phones, make the field of geography more visible and have greatly broadened career opportunities.


Sciencing Sustainability

Biomaterials are materials, chemicals, and energy derived from ethically managed, renewable biological resources. Resulting products are also biocompatible.


Department of Sustainable Biomaterials ( Our focus is on the use of natural, renewable resources to produce useful bioproducts, biomaterials, and bioenergy in a sustainable manner. Learning The burgeoning field of sustainable biomaterials requires expertise ranging from basic science to business savvy. Students can choose from four options: ■ Students in the Wood Materials Science option learn the science and green chemistry needed to make new, sustainable biomaterials. For example, polymers made from cellulose can replace petroleum-based polymers. Natural polysaccharides enhance drug delivery within the body and reduce side effects. ■ In the Residential Wood Structures option, study focuses on sustainable materials and innovation. Students learn how wood and other biobased materials are used in designing structures and how to apply technologies for building green, energy-efficient housing. ■ In the Forest Products Business option, students learn the best ways to produce and market innovative wood products and develop businesses based on the use of green materials. ■ Students in the Packaging Science option learn how sustainable, green packaging is used to eliminate waste and pollution in the environment, how packaging design enhances products, and how smart materials are used in food and drug packaging to enhance safety and quality. Steps are being taken to make this option a major.

Capstone experience The department’s Wood Enterprise Institute — a two-semester program in which students develop, produce, and market a product — requires critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation. This real-world experience enhances the department’s strong science and technology curriculum. The institute’s concept-to-market business approach introduces students to business planning, design, manufacturing, sales, distribution, and overall business performance. Products include household items that appeal to consumers, ranging from laser-engraved coasters to tabletop clocks. More important than the product is how the student teams respond to unanticipated challenges. Each business provides opportunities to solve problems scientifically and to systematically apply knowledge to adapt and improve the business. The Global Issues in Sustainability course provides an opportunity for students to observe how human dimensions, economic development, and policy affect the sustainability of natural resources such as water, forests, and wildlife. For example, students who were surveyed before a study abroad experience to Costa Rica thought sustainability would be robust in that country based on its resources, ecotourism industry, and national parks. However, direct observation revealed the challenges of balancing economic development with conservation.


Jobs New and traditional materials industries need sophisticated biomaterials scientists, wood technologists, and packaging engineers. Forest products and packaging businesses need business managers, marketing analysts, supply chain managers, and sales support familiar with the industry. Biomaterials, bioenergy, and traditional forest products industries need processing managers and engineers. Many businesses offer opportunities for sustainability experts. Wood structure enterprises offer careers for material specialists and building designers. Virtually all of the department’s graduates find career-level positions in their field. Research in the department Research is largely focused on renewable and sustainable biomaterials, ranging from supply chain analysis for traditional mills to cutting-edge bioenergy research. Department faculty members lead a significant university-level interdisciplinary effort to use natural products to enhance medicine, such as borrowing from the molecular structure of natural products to make medicines more soluble in the blood, and therefore more effective. The department is rich in laboratory resources for characterizing the molecular structure and properties of biomaterials, including wood, grasses, and chitosan (exoskeletons of crustaceans). Projects include developing better materials for a range of applications, from biobased polymers to nanomaterials for developing new transportation fuels and energy storage. Working with materials at a larger scale, researchers are creating and testing woodbased composite materials and designing and testing wood drying, processing, and packaging technologies. Projects include raw material

preparation and testing; sanitation of products in transport; the physical, chemical, and structural properties of packaging systems, ranging from synthetic to natural ecoplastics; and the design of wooden products, from wood structures to the pallets that are basic to transporting goods worldwide. Other studies provide information concerning markets for wood residues, new markets for wood products in transportation systems, and factors influencing success in foreign markets for wood products; the development of new coatings for packaging films and health supplements; and the development of natural nanomaterials for uses ranging from structural enhancements in medical applications to biofuels production.


Engagement Engagement by the department serves Virginia’s citizens and businesses through education about efficient manufacturing and sustainable use of resources and energy. Lean, green manufacturing and sustainability is our focus. For example, energy expenses are the third-largest cost for the U.S. forest products industries, after raw materials and labor, so the department’s Center for Forest Products Business provides workshops on reducing energy use in the manufacturing process. By providing educational opportunities and resources to businesses, consumers, and educators, we aim to improve business competitiveness

and the standard of living for the citizens of Virginia and the nation, and to make better use of sustainable biomaterials, including wood products. An example of better wood use is recycling pallets. The pallet industry is the largest user of hardwood lumber (by volume) in North America. While many pallets are recovered, repaired, and reused, many more could have additional lives as new products. Reuse possibilities range from ecofriendly flooring to animal bedding, mulch, or fuel. A department program teaches about pallets and how to recycle them, and matches those who have pallets with those who need them. As a result, several companies have invested in their own pallet recycling operations and others were able to find a solution to their pallet problems. The future The future depends on the planet’s inhabitants using sustainable materials in a way that will have reduced impacts on the environment. The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials is committed to maintaining its traditional focus on the sustainable use of wood while expanding into new areas of sustainable and renewable materials and uses, and to finding new ways to develop products and energy for the benefit of humans and the environment.

Maren Roman is studying the use of cellulosederived nanoparticles in cancer drug delivery. Her lab has developed a chemical strategy to target cellulose nanocrystals to malignant tumor cells, bypassing the healthy cells, and has demonstrated that the targeted and drug-loaded cellulose nanocrystals are more effective in eradicating cancer cells than drugs alone.


Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment.


Experience Sustainability The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech conducts research in order to ensure a sustainable world. Through outreach and engagement, the college helps people accomplish and beneďŹ t from the wise, responsible management of natural resources. We nurture our students so they will become creative thinkers with exceptional communication skills and problem-solving abilities. We educate them to follow in the footsteps of our outstanding faculty members, and to become leaders and decision makers for the wise management of our environment. Our collegial group of scientists, students, and sta invite you to share our mission. The College of Natural Resources and Environment is supported by state and university funds, the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and individual and corporate donors. College of Natural Resources and Environment 324 Cheatham Hall (0324) Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061 540-231-5481,,


People, Our Most Important Resource Alumni

Faculty members

ɵ George Bumann (’02 M.S.) is a wildlife sculptor based just outside Yellowstone National Park, whose work is on display throughout the United States and Europe.

ɵ Janaki Alavalapati, professor and head of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, received the 2010 International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Scientific Achievement Award. He has been a Senior Fellow of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas for the U.S. Department of State.

ɵ Doug Domenech (’79 B.S.) was named Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources under Governor Bob McDonnell. ɵ Carl Garrison (’79 B.S.) is the Virginia State Forester. ɵ Chris Heine (’97 M.S., ’00 M.B.A., ’01 Ph.D.) is the president of Bosch Power Tools USA. ɵ Travis Hardy (’01 B.A.) is assistant vice president and business development manager at SAIC (Science Applications International Corp.). ɵ Edwin Jones (’79 M.S., ’83 Ph.D.) is director of Virginia Cooperative Extension. ɵ Sybille Klenzendorf (’97 M.S., ’02 Ph.D.) is managing director for the Species Conservation Program at World Wildlife Fund. ɵ Barbara Knuth (’86 Ph.D.) is vice provost and dean of the Cornell Graduate School. ɵ Charisa Morris (’99 B.S., ’06 M.S.) is chief of the Branch of Bird Conservation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ɵ Lisa Norris (’79 B.S.) is the award-winning author of the books “Toy Guns” (Willa Cather prize) and “Women Who Sleep With Animals” (Stephen F. Austin University Press prize). ɵ Bettina Ring (’86 B.S.) is senior vice president at the American Family Forests Foundation. ɵ James Stief (’79 B.S.) is executive vice president of operations at The Davey Tree Expert Company. ɵ Dennis Treacy (’78 B.S.) is executive vice president for corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer at Smithfield Foods. ɵ Michael Wolcott (’89 Ph.D.) is a Regents Professor and director of the Institute for Sustainable Design at Washington State University.

ɵ John Boyer, instructor in geography, has received the Students’ Choice Award for Faculty Member of the Year every year from 2004 to 2011. He has also received the National Council for Geographic Education Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award and the University Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects. ɵ Harold Burkhart, University Distinguished Professor and Thomas M. Brooks Professor of Forestry, is a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of American Foresters, and Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist of 2012. ɵ James Campbell, professor of geography, is a Fellow of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

■ Susan D. Day, assistant professor of urban forestry, received the 2010 Early Career Scientist Award from the International Society of Arboriculture. ■ Kevin Edgar, professor of biomaterials and bioprocessing, is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the society’s Division of Cellulose and Renewable Materials. ■ Thomas Fox, professor of forestry and a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for research and teaching at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. ■ James Fraser, professor of wildlife, is an Elected Member of the American Ornithologists Union, the oldest and most respected ornithological organization in the world. ■ Chip Frazier, the Thomas M. Brooks Professor of Sustainable Biomaterials, directs the Wood-Based Composites Center, a National Science Foundation Cooperative. ■ Eric Hallerman, professor and head of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, served on the National Research Council Committee on Defining Science-Based Concerns Associated with Products of Animal

Biotechnology. He co-led the development of the performance and safety standards for genetically modified fish. ■ Jason Holliday, assistant professor of forest genetics and biotechnology, received a prestigious $1.5-million Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation. ■ Jeffrey Kirwan, professor emeritus of forestry and coordinator of Virginia’s Big Tree Program, co-authored the popular “Remarkable Trees of Virginia” book to showcase the state’s special trees and to connect a new generation to its roots. ■ Michael Mortimer, director of the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, is a Fellow of the Society of American Foresters. ■ Brian Murphy, professor of fisheries, is a Fellow of the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists. ■ Donald Orth, the Thomas H. Jones Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, is a Fellow of the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists and the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute. ■ John Seiler, Alumni Distinguished Professor and the Honorable and Mrs. Shelton H. Short Jr. Professor of Forestry, is a recipient of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award, the commonwealth’s highest honor for Virginia college and university faculty members. ■ Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, is a Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science. ■ Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry, received the 2012 Early Career Scientist Award from the International Society of Aboriculture. ■ Shepard Zedaker, professor of forest resources and environmental conservation, is a Fellow of the Society of American Foresters. ■ Audrey Zink-Sharp, professor of sustainable biomaterials, is a Fellow of the Society for Wood Science and Technology and the International Academy of Wood Science.

VT CNRE Advancing the Science of Sustainability  

Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment Advancing the Science of Sustainability A commitment to sustainability as an e...

VT CNRE Advancing the Science of Sustainability  

Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment Advancing the Science of Sustainability A commitment to sustainability as an e...