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Environmental Informatics - Opens a World of Opportunity

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?

  • Environmental data scientist
  • Ecosystems services consultant
  • Ecological forecasting specialist
  • Ecoinformaticist
  • Environmental modeler
  • Sustainability analyst

Environmental Informatics Brochure (pdf)

Environmental Informatics in the News

Sustainability Depends on Data

Landsat image of the Lena River delta, the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia Landsat image of the Lena River delta, the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia.

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.”





Big Data Computes to Big Jobs

Landsat Thematic Mapper Image of the New River Valley Landsat Thematic Mapper Image of the New River Valley, showing forests (dark green), agriculture (light green), and development or bare soil (pink), bisected by the New River (black).

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. 



Graduates Will Know How to Solve Environmental Problems

Environmental Informatics Graphic

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.

Graduates Will Develop Critical Analytical and Decision Skills for the 21st Century Job Market Such as:
  • Environmental problem solving
  • Effective oral and written communications
  • Mathematical and statistical modeling
  • Remote sensing
  • Geographic information systems (GIS)
  • Ecosystem management
  • Web and database management
  • Spatial data analysis
  • Sustainability analytics   



Professor Randolph Wynne; 540-231-7811

Assistant Professor Valerie Thomas; 540-231-0958

Department of Forest Resources and
Environmental Conservation
(MC 0324)
Cheatham Hall 319, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Dr
Blacksburg, VA 24061

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