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Virginia Tech is well positioned to reach this goal, as our expertise in the College of Natural Resources is not duplicated by any other university with a presence in Northern Virginia. We have established a teaching/research/outreach program focusing on Sustainable Natural Resources In Rapidly Urbanizing Environments. We intend to address the complex ecological issues related to land and natural resources in the rural-urban transitional environment in Northern Virginia, one of the most rapidly developing areas in the United States. As the population of Virginia grows, urbanization will place increasing pressure on rural lands and natural resources. The challenge will be to satisfy the need for developed land while conserving natural resources and the benefits they bring to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Also, increased urbanization will bring the challenges of managing natural resources in a new setting. How to balance natural resources and human needs in urban and urbanizing landscapes is emerging as the central question confronting community leaders, resource managers, land use planners, landscape architects, engineers, park managers, and many others. Conflicts between developers and conservationists are escalating as competition for land and other resources intensify. In addition, resource-based industries are facing economic impacts from urbanization, e.g., decline in commercial fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay. As our use of land for urban and suburban development increases, traditional natural resources values are either reduced or lost. As a result, we must find ways to maintain and restore ecologically significant habitats and processes in and around urban areas. We must also abandon the myth that wildlife and other living resources can be relegated to the countryside and kept separate from the “built and landscaped environment” of the city. Communities and corporations are becoming aware that maintaining a close connection between people and the natural environment is a vital component contributing to “quality of life” and “sense of well-being.” In response, there is a growing awareness across the United States of the need for proactive management for urban natural resources. States, counties, and cities are hiring urban resource professionals, enacting legislation, and implementing programs to create harmony between natural resources and people who inhabit our communities. However, there are emerging concerns that the proliferation of urban natural resources programs is extended beyond the existing scientific underpinnings for sound resource management and conservation. Thus, this nexus of development pressures and conservation interests provides tremendous challenges as well as unique opportunities.
The Natural Resources Program in Northern Virginia focuses on these emerging information and policy needs in urban and urbanizing environments. While traditional natural resource education, research, and outreach programs have addressed issues involving rural environments, our program addresses natural resource issues in the urban environment as well as in the growing urban/rural interface. Issues such as urban fisheries and wildlife management, urban forestry, open space management, greenways and blueways, land use policy, water allocation, and sustainable development are included. As remote sensing and geographic information systems are important tools in managing natural resources, we also incorporate Virginia Tech’s expertise in this area. The teaching portion of our program includes at least two courses per semester leading to a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Natural Resources. In addition, a non-thesis degree, the Master of Natural Resources (MNR) is available for students in Northern Virginia.
The research component of our Northern Virginia program will focus on natural resources policy—in a broad sense—with emphasis on urban forestry and wildlife, as well as issues related to sustainable urban development. As we expand our program and add additional members to the faculty, the research component will expand into other related areas. Our research will be multidisciplinary in scope and interdisciplinary in approach. Studies will be conducted in collaboration with other Virginia Tech departments, as well as appropriate partners in Federal, Commonwealth, County, and City government agencies. The outreach component of the program will include short-courses, workshops, and seminars on urban wildlife management, urban forestry, bioenergy, effects of urbanization on instream flow and aquatic resources, and geographic information system applications to urban land management and planning.
Degree Requirements MNR must take 33 credit hours, including 4 core courses (12 credit hours); and prepare a research-oriented capstone paper (3-6 credit hours).