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School of the Environment enhances research, teaching

Posted by struscott | January 24, 2012

Washington State University has established a new academic entity: the School of the Environment, a world-class interdisciplinary teaching, research and extension enterprise that will address complex, multidimensional environmental issues.
The school, created Jan. 1 by combining two complementary academic units, will become a WSU centerpiece on global change and its effects. In particular, the school will serve as a focal point for system-wide research and collaboration in the critical area of water resources. High-demand undergraduate and graduate degrees will be offered in a broad range of corresponding disciplines.

WSU is uniquely positioned among state agencies and institutions to address the many facets of Earth’s natural resources. Environmentally focused faculty are located throughout WSU’s multi-campus system, and WSU Extension offices in every Washington county provide environmental education and sustainability outreach to learners of all ages.

“The School of the Environment places WSU at the forefront of environmental education and research and will help lead the way as our land grant mission adapts to meet the ever changing needs of the 21st century,” said Warwick Bayly, WSU provost.

RiverMore than a merger

The new school is expected to be greater than the sum of its two parts, the former Department of Natural Resource Sciences (NRS) and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES).

By bringing Earth sciences, ecosystem and natural resource ecology, sustainability sciences and social sciences under the same umbrella, the school will increase team-based research and scholarly output. Additionally, the school will provide cutting-edge training for the next generation of scientists, resource managers, policy makers and well-informed global citizens.

“This new interdisciplinary school unites nationally recognized research efforts at WSU and creates a much stronger and more comprehensive program that is poised for preeminence in addressing regional, national and global environmental problems,” explained Stephen Bollens, inaugural director of the School of the Environment.

For example, the WSU Bear Center, the only facility in the world to house adult grizzlies for research, and the well-equipped GeoAnalytical Lab, and minerals to researchers around the world since 1978, will both be part of the new school.

Going green

The School of the Environment will facilitate significant enhancements to WSU’s academic offerings and empower graduates to compete for increasingly popular “green” jobs in sustainability, renewable energy and natural resource conservation.

Pond“The school is the outcome of a faculty-driven initiative that brought together colleagues from across the entire WSU system,” said Daryll DeWald, dean of the WSU College of Sciences, the academic home of the former SEES unit. “WSU faculty are dedicated to making a difference – not only through their research efforts, but also through the growing success of our students.”

At its inception, the School of the Environment includes 40 full-time faculty and staff, more than 300 undergraduate students and 130 graduate students. It spans three WSU campuses – Pullman, Tri-Cities and Vancouver.

“One of the greatest strengths of the new School for the Environment is the interdisciplinary collaboration that will happen here,” said Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, the academic home of the former NRS unit. “The integration of expertise and cross pollination of ideas better reflect how these issues are addressed in the real world and will provide a great training ground for students.”

Resources at the ready

The School of the Environment will be able to leverage the considerable infrastructure and major research facilities already in place at WSU, including:

  • GeoAnalytical Laboratory
  • Wildlife Habitat Laboratory
  • E.H. Steffen Center
  • WSU Arboretum and Wildlife Conservation Center
  • Center for Environmental Research and Educational Outreach (CEREO)
  • Center for Environmental Sediment and Aquatic Research (CESAR)
  • Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (LAR)
  • Laboratories for Biotechnology and Bioanalysis (Genomics and Stable Isotope Core)
  • Washington Water Research Center (SWWRC)
  • WSU Extension offices across the state

– By Joanna Steward and Kathy Barnard