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J. Todd Petty named dean of Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources

J. Todd Petty, chair of the department of forestry and environmental conservation at Clemson University, has been named the next dean of the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.

“Dr. Petty brings a distinguished record as a researcher, educator and academic leader to the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am excited to welcome him back to the University of Georgia, and I look forward to working with him to advance Warnell’s impact on our state and nation.”

A UGA alumnus, Petty’s selection followed a national search. His appointment is effective Aug. 1.

“It is truly a privilege to be able to return to the Warnell School with an opportunity to serve the students, staff, faculty and alumni as dean,” said Petty. “I’m excited to build on long-standing partnerships the school has established with the state’s forest industry and the entire natural resource conservation community. The forest resources of Georgia are of incredible value to the state and nation, and the Warnell School plays a critical role in ensuring that they are sustained for generations to come.”

Under Petty’s leadership, the department of forestry and environmental conservation at Clemson increased its externally funded grants and contracts tenfold, from $2.6 million in 2020 to more than $20 million in 2023. Enrollment in the department grew significantly to over 400 undergraduate students, nearly 200 graduate students and an additional 100-plus students in a professional master’s degree program. Additionally, Petty worked with faculty to revise the curriculum for all undergraduate majors in the department and established a student leadership council to provide guidance on the department’s operations.

Prior to joining Clemson, Petty taught and conducted research in the department of wildlife and fisheries resources at West Virginia University for 21 years, earning several awards for excellence in teaching, research and service. Total research funding in Petty’s lab at WVU exceeded $25 million as he worked on increasingly complex, interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research teams.

Petty also served as associate dean of academic affairs in the Davis College of Agriculture, Resources and Design at WVU from 2015 to 2020. In that role, he led the revision of undergraduate curricula across five departments and 21 majors, improved graduate student experiences, built a student leadership initiative, and expanded the college’s online offerings.

Petty’s research focuses on watershed scale dynamics of fish populations and riverine ecosystems and the influence of climate change. His work has produced more than 70 publications in high-profile journals.

“As one of the top schools of its kind in the nation, Warnell plays an important role in preparing leaders in the conservation and sustainable management of forests and other natural resources,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Dr. Petty’s vision for excellence in teaching, research and service aligns perfectly with UGA’s mission, and I’m confident he will build upon Warnell’s impressive history.”

Petty earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia. After working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as a fisheries technician in Chesapeake Bay, he returned to graduate school and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in forest resources from UGA.

Petty succeeds W. Dale Greene, who served as Warnell’s dean from 2015 until his retirement on Jan. 1 of this year.

A 19-member search advisory committee chaired by Nick T. Place, dean and director of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, helped identify finalists for the position.

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