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New environmental informatics major opens a world of opportunity


A graphic with environmental informatics at the center, surrounded by information technology, ecological modeling, geospatial science, people, natural resources, and data analysis. The field of environmental informatics brings together science, technology, modeling, and analysis.

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 24, 2013 – Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment begins a new undergraduate major in environmental informatics, based in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, in the fall 2013 semester.

Bringing together information technology, data analysis, natural resources, geospatial science, and ecological modeling, environmental informatics enables students to explore and apply information science to the sustainable management of the natural world.

“In today’s digital age, we are amassing huge amounts of information about the environment at an astonishing rate,” said Valerie Thomas, assistant professor of forest remote sensing in the department.

“Young people are more globally aware and care deeply about the world around them,” she continued. “With the environmental informatics major, we want to give students the cutting-edge skills they need to make a difference and prepare them for exciting and rewarding careers.”

As future natural resource scientists, students will develop skills in remote sensing, ecosystem management, spatial data analysis, statistics, Web and database management, and sustainability analytics.

Such skills are utilized in many environmental professions and applications, ranging from forestry and landscaping mapping to pollution modeling and watershed ecology. Graduates of the environmental informatics major will be prepared to apply environmental problem-solving skills to help sustain, repair, and enhance the environment.

“Today’s problems are increasingly complex and involve vast amounts of data,” said Randolph Wynne, professor of forest remote sensing. “As a result, the need for professionals trained in technical and analytical approaches to environmental problems is rising dramatically.”

The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, which consistently ranks among the top three programs of its kind in the nation, advances the science of sustainability. Programs prepare the future generation of leaders to address the complex natural resources issues facing the planet. World-class faculty lead transformational research that complements the student learning experience and impacts citizens and communities across the globe on sustainability issues, especially as they pertain to water, climate, fisheries, wildlife, forestry, sustainable biomaterials, ecosystems, and geography. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

Written by Leah Dick of Pulaski, Va., a senior majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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