Harold E. Burkhart receives international award for sustainable forest management models
September 11, 2014
Harold E. Burkhart, a faculty member in Virginia Tech’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation since 1969, is the recipient of the 2014 World Congress Host Country Scientific Achievement Award from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).
IUFRO is a nonprofit international network of forest scientists that promotes global cooperation in forest-related research and enhances the understanding of the ecological, economic, and social aspects of forests and trees.
“Dr. Burkhart has had an exemplary research, academic, and professional career for more than 40 years,” announced IUFRO. “He has made significant and path-breaking contributions to the development of quantitative models for forecasting forest stand dynamics growth and yield.”
Burkhart, the Thomas M. Brooks Professor of Forestry, is one of 14 University Distinguished Professors at Virginia Tech, where only 1 percent of the faculty receive this honor based on national and international recognition. He has received many awards in science, forest biometrics, and statistical ecology over the years for his research that improved forestry practices, including being named Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist of 2013.
“Harold is not only a world leader and innovator who has had enormous impact on the sustainability of forest resources,” noted Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, “but also a respected educator who has mentored many young scientists in the U.S. and around the world.”
Burkhart, whose research funding over the years totals more than $12 million, has supervised 60 graduate students, 14 postdoctoral fellows, and seven visiting faculty members.
“Accurate assessment of forest growth and yield under different management regimes is central for ensuring sustainable forestry,” added Janaki Alavalapati, head of the forest resources department. “Dr. Burkhart’s research is helping formulate sound policies and programs to advance sustainable forestry in the U.S. and beyond.”
Burkhart has developed comprehensive models for forest stands subject to intensive management practices, including site preparation, vegetation control, planting genetically improved stock, thinning, and fertilizer applications.
These models of stand growth and development apply complex mathematical and statistical modeling methods. Through the process of quantifying forest stand dynamics, new understanding of the biological processes is also gained, gaps in knowledge are identified, and research needs are focused.
Many forestry educators and researchers acknowledge Burkhart as one of the leading pioneers in developing the field of biometrics. He has authored two widely adopted books: the undergraduate textbook “Forest Measurements,” now in its fifth edition, and the advanced-level book “Modeling Forest Trees and Stands,” considered the leading reference for this research specialty.
A member of IUFRO’s executive board from 1996 to 2000, Burkhart has organized many scientific meetings for the organization, as well as served in several leadership positions with its divisions and research groups.
The forest biometrics scholar has been a prolific contributor to forest modeling science, with more than 250 research papers published in journals, research bulletins, book chapters, and proceedings papers.
In 1979 he founded an industry-university cooperative research program at Virginia Tech aimed at developing improved models for predicting tree growth and stand development. This consortium, now called the Forest Modeling Research Cooperative, includes 20 industrial forestry firms and the Virginia Department of Forestry.
The program is part of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Advanced Forestry Systems and a regional project, Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaption (PINEMAP), funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. PINEMAP aims to help southern pine landowners manage forests to increase carbon sequestration, fertilizer absorption, and sustainability.
During his stellar career Burkhart served as forestry department head from 1995 to 2008 and was a Senior Research Fellow at the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua, New Zealand. A former editor of the journal Forest Science, Burkhart is a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of American Foresters.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Oklahoma State University and master’s degree and Ph.D. in forest biometrics from the University of Georgia.
Burkhart, who received the IUFRO Scientific Achievement Award in 1981, will be presented with this new award on Oct. 6 at the IUFRO World Congress in Salt Lake City, Utah.