In 2016, the Foundation reached out to the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment to explore opportunities to work together to advance the mutual goals of training the next generation of environmental leaders by providing real world experiences to undergraduate students. The Foundation identified Virginia Tech as a potential partner due to Virginia Tech’s stellar reputation in the environmental sciences and its association with the Conservation Management Institute (CMI), which pulls together teams of research faculty, staff, and students to produce quality solutions through the application of sound science
Working together, the Foundation and Virginia Tech identified a suitable property intended to serve as a living laboratory and teaching location for Virginia Tech students, faculty, and the larger community to engage in applied natural resource management and ecological restoration. Specifically, the Foundation agreed to provide support to the CMI for four undergraduate students to participate in research that will:
- Educate students in a “real world” setting in both from a natural resource management and business and management understanding;
- Teach business and project management skills such as proposal writing, team work across disciplines, negotiating skills, presentation skills, project deliverables, costing; and
- Ultimately increase ecological viability and natural resource sustainability of the parcel.
The four students will be required to (1) develop a pertinent research question related to the conservation and natural resource management goals of the property owners, (2) with the guidance of the CMA faculty mentor, develop an experimental/sample design based upon the research question supported by background literature reviews (3) based upon the sample design and research plan, collect field data to support their research question, (4) perform basic management and analysis of the data collected, and (5) develop a project report regarding potential future ecological restoration efforts.
In addition, because the owners of the property have already begun preliminary restoration projects (e.g., stream and plant diversity), the data collected by Virginia Tech students will directly support both monitoring of existing restoration efforts and the identification and design of other ecological restoration efforts.
Students are currently working on the property to quantify and survey flora, fauna, water quality, aquatic habitat, wetlands, and other data points. The data collection, research, and analysis will continue through the 2018 Spring semester.