The Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources Thomas M. Brooks Forest Products Center helped to provide the General Assembly with new gavels this past session.

It all started when Brian Bond, assistant professor of wood science and forest products, was contacted by the supervisor of maintenance and operation for the Virginia Department of General Services, Robert Gorkiewicz, about finding a source for drying wood blocks.

The wood blocks had been cut from the Capital Square tree, which had resided near the Virginia General Assembly until Hurricane Isabel brought it down. The tree was several hundred years old, and a decision was made to make commemorative gavels for the General Assembly from the tree's wood.

The wood blocks were delivered to the Thomas M. Brooks Forest Products Center in mid-December. After the 2- to 3-inch-thick blocks were dried in the Brooks Lab dry kiln for two and a half months, gavels were "produced for each senator and delegate of the Commonwealth of Virginia," Gorkiewicz said.

The Thomas M. Brooks Forest Products Center is a 35,000 square foot complex on the edge of the Virginia Tech campus in the Corporate Research Center. The Brooks Center, which houses faculty, staff, and students in the department of Wood Science and Forest Products, contains research laboratories and equipment. The center contains labs for wood base composites manufacture and testing, a high-bay wood engineering lab with full-scale timber testing equipment, the William A Sardo Pallet Laboratory, and the Center for Unit Load laboratory. A new wood drying laboratory was recently completed with a state-of-the-art laboratory kiln.

The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top five programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. Areas of studies include environmental resource management, fisheries and wildlife sciences, forestry, geospatial and environmental analysis, natural resource recreation, urban forestry, wood science and forest products, geography, and international development.