Josh Nease, who served as West Virginia headwaters coordinator for the 50-year-old conservation group Trout Unlimited, is the new head of Virginia Tech's 377-acre Catawba Sustainability Center

Nease also was program coordinator and logistics manager for The Mountain Institute, a conservation-related organization, in Spruce Knob, W.Va.

A former dairy farm supplying the Catawba Hospital (formerly Sanitarium), the Catawba property came under Virginia Tech's supervision in 1988. Catawba Sustainability Center projects involve several Virginia Tech colleges and institutes, showcasing land-management practices to create better environmental stewardship. The center also offers workshops and low-cost land-leases for new and expanding agriculture and natural-resource businesses. The pastureland, surrounded by mountains, is situated in the Upper James River Basin in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

"I am excited about Josh coming on board," says Kay Dunkley, director of the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center. "He co-managed a 400-acre educational facility, where he supervised a large staff, taught classes, and interacted daily with educators, students, and visitors. His personality and background make him a great fit for managing the center and working with university faculty and students."

Faculty members involved in developing the center include Bruce Hull, a professor instrumental in the center's founding, Hull also has worked to promote forest and riparian management, local food processing and marketing, and local tourism. Graduate students have used the center as a living laboratory to explore agroforestry, which is a means to produce food, fiber, fuel, and medicine more sustainably by combining trees with crops and livestock in the same area.

Nease, who starts work Aug. 10, has a bachelor's degree in public relations from West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he minored in environmental science. At Trout Unlimited, he developed a new watershed education and riparian restoration program and worked with volunteers to implement it.

A signature center program at the Catawba Sustainability Center is the VT EarthWorks intensive-learning series called the Growers Academy. The academy, developed in partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension, graduated its first crop of growers and farmers in spring 2010. During the eight weeks of classes, students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Pamplin College of Business coached participants in how to write business plans. Others who contributed include VT KnowledgeWorks and the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center.

Nease replaces Christy Gabbard, who worked with the Catawba project since 2007 when it was housed in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. She served as the center's director in Outreach and International Affairs since 2009.

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