Advancing the Science of Sustainability
A new Environmental Informatics Major in the College of Natural Resources and Environment
helps students develop these critical analytical and decision skills for the 21st century job market.
What is Environmental Informatics?
The use of computers, digital technology, and modeling to solve environmental problems.
Why is it important?
Today’s problems are increasingly complex and involve vast amounts of data. They require computers and modeling to solve them.
Who might find this major a good fit?
Students who are good with numbers, enjoy computing, and want to make a positive difference to the environment.
What are career options?
Data is opening the door to a better world – literally, a better environment. Natural resource scientists use knowledge of living systems plus modern technology to compile and analyze information and make decisions to sustain, repair, and enhance life on Earth. A New York Times article on April 11, 2013, calls data scientists “magicians” and references the potential touted by a McKinsey Global Institute study that predicts, “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”
Conservation of natural resources, sustainability, impact assessment, planning, and management have grown increasingly reliant on computerbased approaches in the past few decades. Dynamic-simulation modeling, statistics, database management, geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensing are utilized in many environmental professions and applications, ranging from forestry and landscape mapping, to pollution modeling and watershed ecology, and many more. As a result, the need for professionals trained in technical and analytical approaches to environmental problems is rising dramatically. Environmental Informatics applies information science to the management of natural resources. It includes aspects of geographic information, mathematical and statistical modeling, remote sensing, database management, knowledge integration, and decision making.
The college’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation provides an education on how life works, from the microscopic to the Earth-systems level. Its Environmental Informatics Major brings together enhanced data gathering and knowledge integration using such tools as computer science, GIS, remote sensing, database management, and data visualization and modeling. The result is environmental problem solving. Scholars across the Virginia Tech campus are responding to the nation’s call for unique approaches to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for undergraduate students. The Environmental Informatics Major is one of many strategic efforts by the College of Natural Resources and Environment. The amount of data being collected to monitor the Earth’s ecosystems is enormous. Graduates of the Environmental Informatics Major will be part of a new wave of data scientists trained to handle vast amounts of data for different specialties.
Professor Randolph Wynne
Assistant Professor Valerie Thomas
Department of Forest Resources and
Environmental Conservation(MC 0324)
Cheatham Hall 319, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Dr
Blacksburg, VA 24061