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W. Lee Daniels receives lifetime achievement research award for coal mine reclamation work


W. Lee Daniels W. Lee Daniels

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 27, 2012 – W. Lee Daniels, professor of environmental soil science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, recently received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Mining and Reclamation.   

A Virginia Tech faculty member in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences since 1981, Daniels was given the William T. Plass Award for his work in the reclamation and rehabilitation of lands impacted by mining, waste disposal, road building, and other disturbances.

“We are very fortunate that he is part of Virginia Tech, and the Plass award is a timely recognition of his outstanding contributions to reclamation science,” said Tom Thompson, professor and head of the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.

Daniels’ research has influenced regulatory policies concerning soil residues generated by coal-fired power plants.  In the mid-1990s, he was a panel member of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and authored a report that the agency has been using ever since to develop the regulation of coal byproducts.

He also was named a first-place recipient of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2000 National Wastewater Management Excellence Award in biosolids research.  

Daniels has gained international respect in China, Brazil, Australia, Canada, U.K., and Poland for his work.

“Lee’s contributions are evident in the variety and complexity of the projects he has managed, including coal refuse, sewage sludge, dredge sediments, and toxic smelter wastes,” said James Burger, Garland Gray Professor Emeritus of forestry and soil science at Virginia Tech. 

Daniels was a key member of a joint American-Polish team that successfully revegetated and reclaimed smelter waste in Poland. Several Superfund cleanup sites in the U.S. are using methodology developed by Daniels’ team.

He is highly regarded as an effective and dedicated instructor. He teaches introductory soil science lecture courses to more than 150 students every year, in addition to other advanced undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

“Receiving this reward made me thankful for the great opportunity that I was provided here as a young scientist in the early 1980s. It also makes me think back and appreciate all of the really talented graduate students, research associates, and post-doctorates who supported our program,” Daniels said.

Daniels received his bachelor's degree in forestry, and his master's degree and Ph.D. in agronomy, all from Virginia Tech.

He has also served many professional organizations, including the American Society of Mining and Reclamation, the Virginia Association of Professional Soil Scientists, and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.

Nationally ranked among the top research institutions of its kind, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences focuses on the science and business of living systems through learning, discovery, and engagement. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives more than 3,100 students in a dozen academic departments a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. Students learn from the world’s leading agricultural scientists, who bring the latest science and technology into the classroom.