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Department of Natural Resources and the Environment: An Overview

As evidenced by the name, faculty in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) focus on management and conservation of our planet’s limited natural resources, including earth’s water and climate system, air quality, forests, fisheries, and wildlife resources. “Our departmental research mission statement is to contribute to the solution of environmental problems, to increase understanding of natural resources systems and to enhance the wise and sustainable management of these resources,” says Jason Vokoun, associate professor, and interim department head.  Read More

UConn Woodsmen: Their Sport is the Great Outdoors

The UConn Woodsmen are a club on campus that compete in intercollegiate timbersports, sports that are based on the traditional skills of forestry needed to be a lumberjack! They practice chopping, sawing, and transporting wood, as well as a plethora of other related skills such as throwing axes and building fires. The group will host its ninth annual Jack and Jill meet at Ratcliffe Hicks Arena on March 7.

Learn more about the club in their segment on the UConn 360 Podcast or on their facebook page @UCONNWoodsmen! Questions about the team or practice times can be sent to

Meet undergraduate student Hannah Desrochers

Hannah Desrochers became a natural resources major after her first semester at UConn. She was looking for an exciting path that would take her coursework and career outdoors. Interested in wildlife conservation, she had the chance to study animals and their ecosystems during an education abroad trip to South Africa. The experience confirmed her passion to preserve habitat and protect animals for future generations.

Read more about Hannah’s experiences as a UConn student at Naturally@UConn.

Hannah Desrochers

Invasive Cattails: Balancing Biodiversity and Carbon Sequestration

As an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE), Beth Lawrence focuses much of her research on the consequences of managing invasive plants. One such project is a three-year $650,000 EPA-funded collaboration in Northern Michigan with Oregon State University, Loyola University, Michigan Technological University, Dartmouth College and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, seeking alternative ways to combat a vigorous invasive hybrid cattail species.

Read more about Dr. Lawrence's research at Naturally@UConn.

Dr. Lawrence Field Work

Meet the Researcher: Zhe Zhu, Natural Resources and the Environment

Viewing the earth from space is a breathtaking experience. In the daytime, the green and brown masses of earth blend into the deep blue ocean, covered by curling wisps of clouds. At night, the globe is peppered with constellations of golden lights.

The images we take of space have more than an aesthetic value; they facilitate research about how the Earth is changing by creating the big picture we cannot get from the ground.

University of Connecticut assistant professor of natural resources and the environment Zhe Zhu has dedicated his research career to learning from what satellite images of Earth can tell us about what’s happening on our planet.

Read more about Dr. Zhu and his work at UConn Today

Dr. Zhu

NRCA named recipient of Provost’s Award for Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship in Career Recognition for Team

The Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) was named the 2019 recipient of the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship in the Career Recognition for Team category. The NRCA is an innovative program in conservation and land use planning that engages Connecticut high school students, adult conservation volunteers and teachers with conservation efforts at the community level. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Center for Land Use Education and Research, the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the Neag School of Education.

NRCA Teacher Professional Learning Program Coordinator Laura Cisneros accepted the award on behalf of the team. Cisneros is an assistant extension professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Read more about the award at the Office of the Provost

NRCA Team Provost Award

Tree Sway at the The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Amanda Bunce, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, recently translated her forestry research into an art installation. In a collaboration with faculty and students in School of Fine Arts, she created a piece about tree sway for the Weather Report, an exhibit currently on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

The Weather Report explores weather phenomena and the Earth’s atmosphere through different visual media, including sculpture, drawing, painting, installation and video. According to the press release, the exhibit aims “to reveal the sky as a site where the romantic, the political, the social, and the scientific co-exist and inform one another.”

Read more about Amanda and the exhibit at Naturally@UConn

Amanda Bunce

UConn Partners in Massive Arctic Data Project to Offer Insight into Changing Permafrost Conditions

A new online scientific resource will document changing permafrost conditions at the sub-meter scale throughout the Arctic, providing researchers, educators and the public with new opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, and the Arctic Data Center at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis will lead the development of this online resource. They’ll work with the Alfred Wegener Institute, NASA, the Center for Climate and Health at Alaska Pacific University, and the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota.

“We have this large data set, but no one has the tools to make these sets discoverable because of the sheer volume and knowledge gaps,” says Chandi Witharana, the researcher leading UConn’s involvement in this project. 

Read more about the project at UConn Today.

Chandi Witharana Headshot

Zhe Zhu studies relationship between land change and climate change

In January 2019, Zhe Zhu joined the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment as an assistant professor specializing in developing remote sensing techniques to track land changes in the global landscape. Says Zhu, “I am interested in the four W’s—where, when, what and why the land is changing.”

His global environmental remote sensing laboratory  focuses on these issues and how the data relate to climate change.

Read more on Dr. Zhu's research from Naturally@UConn.

Using Geodesy and Mapping to Aid Ecologists, UConn and the US Government

“There aren’t a lot of geodesists, but it’s good to have a few of us around,” says Thomas Meyer, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and current president of the American Association for Geodetic Surveying.

Geodesy is a specialized field that uses mathematics and physics to measure the shape and size of the Earth, its gravitational field and its geophysical changes over time, such as plate tectonics, glacial melting and sea level rise. Meyer is engaged in a number of research projects that use geodetic technologies and methods to research animal behavior and improve map projections.

Read more about Dr. Meyer's research at Naturally@UConn.

Students engaged in a Surveying class outside the Student Union Mall.

Contact the Natural Resources and the Environment Department:

1376 Storrs Road, Unit 4087
Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4087
(860) 486-2840