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Global Change Center confronts environmental problems


Bill Hopkins Bill Hopkins, shown here on a student research trip to Ecuador, directs the university’s new Global Change Center.

May 15, 2015 – The college is a vital partner in the university’s new Global Change Center, based in the Fralin Life Science Institute. Wildlife Professor Bill Hopkins directs the center, which aims to confront large-scale environmental problems such as habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, disease, and climate change with interdisciplinary, innovative team science, drawing on the diverse expertise of researchers across the university.

“We have incredible expertise at Virginia Tech on each of these problems, but this talent is scattered around campus in different colleges and departments,” said Hopkins. “The Global Change Center will foster interactions among experts in a diversity of fields so that we can approach global change problems with a more holistic, interdisciplinary perspective.”

In addition to establishing a core group of faculty researchers, the center is administering the Virginia Tech Graduate School’s Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program, established in 2013, which already supports 15 doctoral fellows from multiple colleges who are committed to research at the science-policy interface.

Dean Paul Winistorfer sees value in the center’s potential to use research to confront major societal issues. “We have heard a lot about the changing climate over the past decade, and the reality is that the climate-induced changes taking place will impact all aspects of life on the planet,” he said. “The Global Change Center will be a convening space on campus that will bring disciplines and expertise together.”

Together, faculty and student researchers aim to make the best science available to policymakers at the state, federal, and international levels. A key objective is to form meaningful partnerships with external stakeholders, including federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and industry. The center will also offer novel research training opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students.

“Regardless of whether students are working here in Virginia or in remote locations around the world,” Hopkins said, “we want to help them think outside of their primary scientific discipline, consider how their research can benefit society, and develop skills to better communicate their findings to the public and to decision makers. I am thrilled to see what the future holds for them.”

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