West Virginia University’s Division of Forestry has changed its name to the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources. The change is designed to better reflect the division’s evolving efforts in teaching, research and service.

The new designation presents a lucid definition of our mission to outside entities, alleviates confusion between the University and state entities, and will clearly promote a regional, national and global profile as one of the leading forestry programs in the nation,said Joe McNeel, director of the recently rechristened division.

WVU ’s Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, housed in the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, has four major program areas: forest resources management; recreation, parks, and tourism resources; wildlife and fisheries resources; and wood science and technology.

The Division offers undergraduate programs in each discipline, with a variety of personalized tracks to allow students to follow a course of study specific to their individual interests. The Division also offers academic minors in wildlife and fisheries resources and wood science and technology. Graduate students can pursue master of science or doctoral degrees in any of the four disciplines. With 29 faculty members, the Division has a current enrollment of 377 undergraduate and 75 graduate students.

According to McNeel, another factor that drove the name change was the increasing interest from non-majors in division courses such as conservation ecology, the tradition of hunting, and forest resources in U.S. history.

West Virginia Natural Resources (FOR 140) has been a very popular course over the years and generally has over 300 students enrolled in any given semester,McNeel said.There has been substantial and growing interest in these courses that are valuable to not only forestry students, but to a wide range of majors at WVU and the public. As the Division is constantly evaluating our curriculum, including creating interdisciplinary core courses and promoting collaborative efforts, we’ll experience far-reaching benefits of a more encompassing name.

Another growth area has been research funding.

Over the last five years, the Division has made great strides in achieving success in our research efforts,McNeel added.As a faculty, we feel the name change will augment our opportunities for greater research funding and drive our profile to the forefront of natural resource-based research on regional, national and global levels.

Major research projects have been funded by groups and agencies across the region and country, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USDA /CSREES, West Virginia Development Office, Allegheny Power Service Corp. and the Canaan Valley Institute.

Research areas include wood products use and development, sustainable forestry, wildlife ecosystem management and alternative fuels.