Where would you be without wood?

Wood, a natural and renewable resource and the source of food and homes for many kinds of life, is essential to cleaning both our air and water.

University Distinguished Professor Harold E. Burkhart's work helps make sure you won’t find yourself in a world without it.

A pioneer of forestry biometrics, Burkhart essentially has spent his career developing the field of applying mathematics and models to forestry data, ultimately benefiting the resource’s management.

However, Burkhart said he considers teaching and mentoring graduate students his major contribution to life.

    Burkhart (second from left) with three students at a computer

 “The real purpose of education is not to learn the now-accepted facts and theories, but to prepare students for challenges not yet faced, problems not yet confronted,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart, head of the Department of Forestry in the College of Natural Resources, also serves as the director of The Loblolly Pine Growth and Yield Cooperative research project, which was founded in 1979.

He is also involved with the Forest Biometrics and Geomatics Graduate Research Focus Group. The group focuses on research in the areas of ecosystem modeling; geospatial and environmental analysis; measurements, inventory and sampling; and computer applications in natural resources.

Burkhart also devotes his time to serving on the Southside Implementation Team, helping assist the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research with the ongoing economic well-being of Southside Virginia.

A farm boy who grew up on the Oklahoma-Kansas border, Burkhart earned a B.S. in forestry from Oklahoma State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in forest biometrics from the University of Georgia.


Burkart (left) works with students on collecting data from trees with a prism and a special ruler. Burkhart (left) helps students collect data in the field.

Since 1969, he has been teaching forestry at Virginia Tech, working his way up the ladder to being named the endowed Thomas M. Brooks Professor. In 1977, he took sabbatical leave to work as a senior research fellow at the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Active in his profession, Burkhart has served as editor of Forest Science and the Southern Journal of Applied Forestry and associate editor of Forest Science and Canadian Journal of Forest Research. He has held leadership positions in the Society of American Foresters, International Union of Forestry Research Organizations, Virginia Academy of Science, and Xi Sigma Pi National Forestry Honor Society.

Burkhart's work has garnered numerous awards and honors. He has received the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Research Excellence, Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, Distinguished Service to Forestry Award, Oklahoma State University’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award, Statistical Ecologist Award, and Twentieth Century Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Development of Statistical Ecology. He is a Fellow in both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of American Foresters.

Burkhart has 264 publications, including 116 refereed journal articles. His Forest Measurements textbook, now in its fifth edition, is the primary book used to teach forest biometrics.

  • For more information on this topic, contact Lynn Davis at davisl@vt.edu, or (540) 231-6157.

'Sustaining Forest Resources'

    Harold Burkhart sits beside a computer in front of a projection of a pine stand.


Forest preservation

The Department of Forestry and Virginia Cooperative Extension, along with other agencies, are also involved in helping preserve Virginia's forests through the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program (VFLEP).

Some of the services offered by VFLEP include:

  • natural resource education events;
  • youth and landowner education courses; and
  • the Forest Landowner Network.

They also offer Forestry and Wildlife Field Tours that inform participants about practical forest and wildlife management techniques.

Remarkable trees

The Department of Forestry is a sponsor of the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project.

The project is searching for trees to increase awareness and appreciation of Virginia's most striking trees

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