W. Michael Aust, professor of forestry in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, has been named the Honorable Garland Gray Professor of Forestry by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The professorship was established in 1985 by the late state Sen. Elmon Gray, who named it in memory of his father, who also served in the Senate of Virginia. The professorship recognizes teaching and research excellence in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 1989, Aust has focused his teaching, research, and outreach activities on maintaining and improving the long-term sustainability of managed forests with an emphasis on forestry best management practices for protection of water quality and site productivity.

He has received approximately $4.5 million in research funding over the course of his career, primarily for forest operations projects. His research has been instrumental in the development of national forestry best management practices, and his work has informed a brief for the U.S. Supreme Court. Aust’s research has supported approximately 50 past and current graduate students and has resulted in more than 200 professional publications.

Aust has been invited to present his work to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as numerous national and international conferences. He received the George E. Dissmeyer Forest Water Resource Outstanding Service Award from the Southern Group of State Foresters.

In the classroom, Aust receives high student evaluation scores, is a dedicated and demanding professor who challenges all his students, and provides hands-on learning experiences. He is an approachable mentor and advisor whom students regularly seek out for counsel and additional learning opportunities. Aust has received 12 teaching awards in his career, including the university’s William T. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence in 2018, the College of Natural Resources and Environment Teaching Excellence Award, and the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Aust regularly conducts presentations, workshops, field trips, and Extension programs that address forest operations and provide continuing education for federal and state agencies, professional organizations, certification agencies, and private citizen groups.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi State University and his doctorate from North Carolina State University.

Related story: