Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment begins a new undergraduate major in environmental informatics, based in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, in the fall 2013 semester.

Bringing together information technology, data analysis, natural resources, geospatial science, and ecological modeling, environmental informatics enables students to explore and apply information science to the sustainable management of the natural world.

“In today’s digital age, we are amassing huge amounts of information about the environment at an astonishing rate,” said Valerie Thomas, assistant professor of forest remote sensing in the department.

“Young people are more globally aware and care deeply about the world around them,” she continued. “With the environmental informatics major, we want to give students the cutting-edge skills they need to make a difference and prepare them for exciting and rewarding careers.”

As future natural resource scientists, students will develop skills in remote sensing, ecosystem management, spatial data analysis, statistics, Web and database management, and sustainability analytics.

Such skills are utilized in many environmental professions and applications, ranging from forestry and landscaping mapping to pollution modeling and watershed ecology. Graduates of the environmental informatics major will be prepared to apply environmental problem-solving skills to help sustain, repair, and enhance the environment.

“Today’s problems are increasingly complex and involve vast amounts of data,” said Randolph Wynne, professor of forest remote sensing. “As a result, the need for professionals trained in technical and analytical approaches to environmental problems is rising dramatically.”

Written by Leah Dick of Pulaski, Va., a senior majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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