John A. Peterson, laboratory specialist advanced for the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, has received the university’s 2016 President’s Award for Excellence.
The President’s Award for Excellence is presented annually to up to five Virginia Tech staff employees who have made extraordinary contributions by consistent excellence in the performance of their job or a single incident, contribution, or heroic act. Each recipient is awarded a $2,000 cash prize.
Peterson has been a lab specialist advanced for the university for 22 years, providing extensive work for administrators, faculty, and graduate students.
He has helped develop Virginia Tech’s tree biology web, computer and smartphone based educational material since 1997. More recently, Peterson was a part of the team that created vTree, the most downloaded mobile application for tree identification. He has also been the primary programmer of Woody Plants in North America, a tree identification multimedia tutorial with 960 species and over 25,000 color photographs.
He is the first to volunteer to accompany graduate students on their fieldwork, which often takes place in hostile and uninviting environments, such as a snake infested Alabama swamp or South Carolina pinelands overrun with ticks and chiggers.
“John’s support really became evident when I started a Ph.D. program from 2005-2008,” wrote Michael Tyree, assistant professor of Biology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in a nomination letter. “On many occasions this involved leaving Blacksburg at 3 a.m., driving to get to the site by daybreak, putting in a full day of work, and returning the 6 hours back home that same day. John’s diverse background allowed him to help in a number of capacities from running infra-red gas analyzers, to taking growth measurements, to sampling soil properties.”
Outside of his official duties, Peterson is known for his outreach, service and teaching for the department. He often hosts the Virginia Master Naturalists at his farm for a tree walk and picnic dinner. His outreach work includes reaching middle and high school students with forestry knowledge.