West Virginia University professor Robert C. Burns recently assumed a new leadership role within the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

Davis College Dean Daniel Robison recently named Burns director of the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources and as a director of the School of Natural Resources in the College.

Prior to stepping into his new role, Burns, who has been with the Davis College since 2004, served as coordinator of the recreation, parks and tourism resources program.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the Division I have been associated with for the past 12 years, and I look forward to building on the long term successes the Division has seen under Dr. Joseph McNeel’s leadership,” he said.

McNeel served as the division director of Forestry and Natural Resources for the past 17 years.

“Joe has done excellent work and will continue to support the mission of the division as director of the Appalachian Hardwood Center,” Robison said.

Robison is confident in Burns’ abilities and says he is optimistic for the future of the division in every way.

“Dr. Robert Burns brings to the position a terrific balance of research, teaching and service accomplishments and capacities, and a broad outlook on moving all the programs forward,” Robison said. “He is extraordinarily accomplished as an academic, having secured millions of dollars of funding for his own research, and he has an inclusive view of forest stewardship, sustainability, and the economic, ecological and social aspects of land use. He will be a terrific partner and continue to foster the prominent role FNR has in the college, across the university, and throughout the natural resources sector.”

The Division of Forestry and Natural Resources is an interdisciplinary unit that consists of five programs: Forest Resources Management; Wildlife and Fisheries Resources; Wood Science and Technology; Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources; and Energy Land Management.

As director, Burns plans to focus both on internal and external aspects of the division and provide strategic guidance to the faculty and staff to ensure continued success.

“Internally we have a highly qualified and motivated faculty whose efforts are respected locally, nationally and internationally,” he said. “We will build upon these successes and

ensure we have the right mix of faculty and staff within the five programs to be a sustainable, viable interdisciplinary Division that supports the mission of the Davis College, WVU, and the West Virginia community as a whole.”

Externally, Burns says the division will seek to increase its visibility among industry and agency partners while also continuing to foster relationships with the current ones. He also plans to focus efforts on new student enrollment.

“We will reenergize our efforts to recruit quality students who, upon graduation from WVU, will be prepared to join these industries and agencies to help meet the needs of a rapidly changing natural resource landscape,” he said.

Burns’ current research scholarship involves collecting and using data to support decision making for public lands and management, a project for which he has secured nearly $10 million in external research funding. In addition, Burns is also the primary investigator in a long-term research and monitoring effort in various western U.S. states that focuses on finding a balance between the demand for forest products and social use on public lands. He leads research efforts on visitor use of greenspaces in Brazil, as well as the development of an integrated land use planning model with direct application in West Virginia.

Burns received a bachelor’s in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in public administration from Central Michigan University and a doctorate in leisure studies from The Pennsylvania State University. In addition to his educational background, he also served in the U.S. Army as both a commissioned (retiring with the rank of Major) and non-commissioned officer. Burns’ 22-year career in higher education began at The Pennsylvania State University, and continued as a professor at the University of Florida and WVU.

Burns says he is ready to take on this next challenge in his career and continue to bring success to the division.

“I thank the current faculty and staff of Forestry and Natural Resources for their continued support of the division as we move forward,” he said. “Leadership changes come with growing pains, and I remain committed to doing good work for the division and our school as a whole, supporting our faculty, staff and students, and our land grant mission.”


cg 11/30/16

CONTACT: Lindsay Willey, Communications Manager, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
304.293.2381; Lindsay.Willey@mail.wvu.edu

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