COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Steve Whisenant, head of Texas A&M University’s department of ecosystem science and management, has been elected to lead the international Society for Ecological Restoration organization.
Whisenant took over the leadership position during the August meeting of the organization in Merida, Mexico.
The Society for Ecological Restoration is a non-profit organization founded in 1988. It has members in 70 countries and has 13 chapters serving regions of North America, Europe and Australia. The Society is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Whisenant was a charter member and helped form the Society to provide education and guidance for those engaged in restoration projects around the world, as well as help with policy recommendations for agencies that make laws and regulations pertaining to ecological restoration.
While the Society itself does not engage in restoration projects, he said it has as a mission to “promote ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and reestablishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.”
Whisenant joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1988 as an associate professor. He was appointed head of the rangeland ecology and management department in 2004, as interim head of the forest science department in 2006, and helped merge the two departments in 2007. At that time he was named head of the new ecosystem science and management department.
Over the years, he has provided expertise for ecological assessments and policy recommendations to as many as 25 different countries working to return biological diversity and ecosystem services to severely damaged lands resulting from overgrazing, deforestation, wars, industrialization and other factors.
Under his leadership, the department began offering a bachelor’s of science degree in ecological restoration during the past five years.
Whisenant said there are not many universities around the country offering such a degree, but the demand is growing.
“Ecological restoration is becoming more widespread around the world,” he said. “We have many degraded lands and there are a lot of companies and agencies that are interested in doing that type of work. They need employees with expertise. And we are beginning to see a growing number of students who are interested in the field.”