The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities  today released a Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources, which details six “grand challenges” facing the U.S. in the areas of sustainability, water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education.  The report, which a wildlife scientist from West Virginia University helped author, recommends a series of research, education and outreach activities to meet these challenges over the next decade.

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James T. Anderson, Davis-Michael Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources at WVU

“While there have been many high-level reports and strategic plans written about the topics covered by this report, most have tended to break natural resources into sub-disciplines representing particular resources: atmospheric, coastal, fisheries, forests, marine, rangelands, water, wildlife and others. Although universities frequently segregate these fields through disciplines, the resources themselves are all interrelated and need to be dealt with as a whole,” the report says.

The goals of the roadmap are to:

  • Chart a path for natural resources research, education, and outreach direction for public universities over the next 5-10 years;
  • Identify major challenges, knowledge gaps and priorities;
  • Provide guidance for policy makers in strategic planning and investment;
  • Support natural resources agencies, professional societies, and non-governmental organizations in advocating for the use of sound science in natural resources decision-making; and
  • Facilitate the development of interdisciplinary research, education and outreach teams focused on natural resources challenges.

James T. Anderson, Davis-Michael Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, was part of a team of 35 scientists who authored the roadmap after receiving significant feedback from researchers at public and land-grant institutions across the country.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored the report through a grant to Oregon State University, which then partnered with APLU.

“Development of this roadmap detailing research, education, and outreach priorities for natural resources was a monumental undertaking, but it was essential for ensuring long-term sustainability and conservation of our natural resources,” said Anderson, who also directs WVU’s Environmental Research Center. “It is an honor for WVU to be included as one of the institutions involved with developing this plan which will help guide future funding, research priorities, and policy development initiatives.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are:

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

“Scientists at our public and land-grant universities have developed this report to more clearly identify the challenges we face and prioritize our research, education and outreach efforts,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “It provides a needed framework and should help guide policy decisions in the coming years.”

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 235 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations.  Founded in 1887, APLU is North America’s oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, Canada, and Mexico. Annually, APLU member campuses enroll 4.7 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.1 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $41 billion in university-based research.