Environmental Science Program

Smith Mountain Lake Water Quality Program

Each summer, students from Ferrum College work in collaboration with volunteers from the Smith Mountain Lake Association in an ongoing effort to monitor the water quality at Smith Mountain Lake. Dr. Carolyn Thomas leads this program.

Read the Smith Mountain Eagle’s article about the 2013 Roanoke River Conference here. The event included a presentation by Dr. Thomas, “Smith Mountain Lake and Climate Change: Can we measure an effect?”

Appalachian Labs Water Quality Project

Dr. David Johnson, Dr. Bob Pohlad, and Dr. Carolyn Thomas participate in this ongoing effort with scientists at Maryland’s Appalachian Labs to study the effect of coal mining on mountain streams. Students have many opportunities to participate in this research throughout the year.

DeHart Botanical Gardens

Educator, philanthropist and Ferrum College alum Allen DeHart, of Louisburg, NC, gifted the 172 acre DeHart Botanical Gardens to his alma mater in December 2012. Founded by DeHart and located near Lover’s Leap Overlook on Route 58 W in Patrick County, Va., DeHart Botanical Gardens is a rare nature preserve featuring a diverse population of plant and animal species as well as spectacular views that rival those seen from the famous overlook. The Gardens include wildflowers, old growth hardwoods, azalea, rhododendron, and wildlife, as well as freshwater streams, waterfalls, geological formations and caves, nature trails, and the stone foundation of a pioneer home site. The College uses the property as a “living laboratory” in its Environmental Science and other sustainability-related programs. Learn more here.

Polyoxometalate Synthesis

Dr. Jason Powell has research interests involving the study of early transition-metal oxoanions (polyoxometalates). Students with at least a general chemistry background have the opportunity to work on projects in the synthesis of these compounds and in studying their properties in a variety of applications ranging from corrosion protection and chemical sensors to catalysis and molecular electronics.

Logging impacts on wildlife on non-industrial private forestlands in Virginia

A study of the abundance, species richness, and species composition of vertebrate wildlife on logged and unlogged woodlots in Franklin, Patrick and Henry Counties of Virginia has been ongoing since 2003. The immediate goal is to determine how wildlife responds to different intensities of logging in these forests stands. The ultimate goal is to provide foresters, loggers, and landowners with information of wildlife responses to logging so that they can make informed decisions about wildlife when harvesting their lands.

Response of wildlife to different levels of large woody debris

A manipulative study of woody debris is attempting to determine the relative importance of woody debris to small mammals, herpetofauna, and invertebrate species in southwestern Virginia pine-hardwood forests. An experiment consisting of a series of replicated blocks containing treatments with no woody debris manipulation, woody debris removal, or woody debris additions was installed in 2004. Each treatment plot has a drift fence and pitfall trap array in its center that is used to monitor wildlife populations. Small mammal trapping is also being conducted in these plots.

Alternative control treatments for tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

Different herbicide treatments including stem applications and cut stump treatments at different formulations and in different seasons are being tested to determine the relative efficacy of treatments for the control of this invasive species.

George Byrd Memorial Teaching Garden

Dr. George T. Byrd came to Ferrum College in 2000 as an Assistant Professor of Agriculture. In subsequent years, he was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor. He was actively involved with students, his colleagues, and the community and served the College and its students with honor, integrity, and commitment until his untimely death, February 14, 2012. To honor his memory and his commitment to agriculture and to Ferrum College, a memorial garden has been created that is comprised of two spaces- one a teaching/outdoor classroom and one a quieter more reflective garden of shade, wind, chimes, mountain views, and relaxed seating. Learn more here.

Other Projects

This is only a small sampling of current projects in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Please contact the department for more information.