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Wildlife, fisheries programs tops in nation

By Lynn Davis

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 22 - February 29, 1996

The wildlife and fisheries programs in Virginia Tech's College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources are tops in the nation. Administrators belonging to the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs (NAUFWP) have ranked Tech's wildlife program number one and its fisheries program number two.

College Dean Greg Brown said, "This is no surprise to me, since before coming to Virginia Tech several years ago I had been told by wildlife and fisheries colleagues from other major institutions that Tech's programs consistently ranked at or near the top." Wildlife and fisheries department head Brian Murphy echoed a similar refrain: "Part of my decision to leave Texas A&M last year to come here was based on Tech's reputation for being outstanding in these programs."

The peer survey was sent to the 54 members of NAUFWP, which encompasses most of the colleges with strong programs. In total, there are 180 programs in aquatic sciences and fisheries and more than 100 wildlife programs on U.S. college campuses.

Outstanding research, leadership training, outreach, teaching, and international programs helped to make Virginia Tech's fish and wildlife programs top-ranked.

One of Virginia Tech's most visible research areas is its bear studies, a multi-year project that involves several agencies. Another research highlight is the aquaculture research system, which is the nation's largest. The fact that there are two federal government units assigned to the fish and wildlife program, the National Biological Service and the U.S. Forest Service, attests to the high caliber and wide range of research projects in the department.

Many agencies look to Virginia Tech for leadership, as exemplified by the grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service given to a professor to devise a training program that would better develop future leaders in fish and wildlife management. Another professor has just completed a book in Chinese to assist wildlife managers in their work in China. And another professor received a contract from the National Biological Service to establish habitat evaluation procedures for government officials and outside consultants who prepare Environmental Impact Statements.

In outreach, Virginia Tech has become an active player in economic and tourism development for the state, as epitomized by its role in helping Game and Inland Fisheries balance out the fishing opportunities at Smith Mountain Lake.

Virginia Tech's fish and wildlife program also dedicates resources to train forest-service and other agency workers in newly emerging technologies. The professors engaged in research and outreach enrich their classroom teaching not only for graduates, but undergraduates as well.

The fish and wildlife programs attract international students from all over the world-from India, Mexico, and Columbia, to Kenya, Nigeria, and China. And students go out from the program to engage in Virginia Tech projects world-wide, from Madagascar and India to China and Senegal.