B.S. Forest Science 1979

Michael G. Messina, a native of Pottsville, PA, earned his bachelor's degree in Forest Science at Penn State in 1979.  While at Penn State, Mike completed two summer internships with the forest products industry in West Virginia and Virginia, making him a true believer in the value of practical experience while in school.  He impressed that upon students throughout his career.

After Penn State, Mike enrolled in grad school at North Carolina State University where he was responsible for the nutrient aspect of a U.S. Forest Service joint project on quantifying biomass, nutrient, and energy content of natural southern bottomland hardwoods. He also assisted with a Department of Energy project on short rotation intensive culture hardwood energy plantations and with other projects maintained by the NC State Hardwood Research Cooperative. Mike earned a doctorate in Forestry, with a minor in Soil Science, in 1983.

Mike next spent three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the New Zealand Forest Service's Forest Research Institute. His major projects there included the study of nutritional consequences of intensive forest harvesting on site productivity, and responses of eucalypts to thinning, fertilization, and various methods of weed control.

Mike joined the Texas A&M (TAMU) Department of Forest Science in 1986 as assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 1992 and achieved the rank of full professor in 2001. At TAMU, his research interests included silviculture, intensive pine-stand management, forested wetland ecology and management, ecophysiology, and nutrient cycling. He authored or co-authored more than 30 scholarly articles in refereed journals and received or shared research grants totaling almost $2 million. His research was supported primarily by the forest products industry. He received the Texas Forestry Association Research Award in 1996. He served as major professor for 10 Ph.D. and 17 master’s students and served as a committee member for dozens more.

Mike’s appointment at TAMU was primarily teaching. He taught or co-taught 11 courses through his career including silviculture, fire in natural resources management, wood properties and utilization, forest ecology, field forestry techniques, and general forestry. He served as associate head for undergraduate programs from 1995 through 2008, overseeing all advising, curricula design and general undergraduate issues for five degree programs. He served as advisor to the Forestry Club and subsequent TAMU Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) and was immersed in the program’s SAF accreditation reviews in 1992, 1997, and 2003. Mike was selected as Outstanding Faculty Member in the Department of Forest Science by the student body several times.

While in Texas, Mike served on the board of directors of the Texas Forestry Association and chaired the Texas Society of American Foresters. He received the Texas Forestry Association’s Research Award, was elected to Fellow of the Society of American Foresters in 2003 and was selected as the first recipient of the Laurence C. Walker Distinguished Service to Forestry Award in 1999. Larry Walker was a former dean of the Stephen F. Austin College of Forestry and a proud alum of Penn State’s forestry program.

At Texas A&M Mike experienced the merger of the departments of Forest Science and Rangeland Ecology and Management in 2006, and he was heavily engaged in administrative duties directed towards the creation of a new department. He would directly draw on that experience soon after he returned to Penn State in 2009 as the Director of the School of Forest Resources.

In 2010 Penn State began a process to consolidate programs and academic units to create a more efficient and effective institution. Commonwealth budget cuts in 2009 and again in 2011 created additional challenges. The provost at the time requested that the College of Agricultural Sciences consolidate from 12 units to “six or so.” A wide range of scenarios was considered by the powers-that-be, including dividing the School of Forest Resources by grouping “forestry” with “plant science,” and “wildlife/fisheries” with “animal science.” On July 1, 2012, the 105-year-old School of Forest Resources became the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, keeping forestry and wildlife/fisheries “intact” and adding approximately 11 soil scientists plus several other ecologically oriented faculty members from other departments. The final reorganization created nine units from the original 12 and moved the Wood Products degree program to the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering to become part of the BioProducts Option of a new BioRenewable Systems degree. 

Despite the turmoil of a major College reorganization and two budgetary rescissions and recycles, under Mike’s leadership in the 2009-2012 period the school/department was successful in convincing the College to allow us to hire two tenure-track assistant professors, a senior lecturer, and an endowed chair holder, as well as replace two staff assistants and an instructor. And in 2016, the Society of American Foresters re-accredited the undergraduate forestry program.

After a 33-year career in academia at three land-grant universities, Mike retired on June 30, 2019. He now serves as a director of the Centre County Conservation District, and enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and other pursuits in Pennsylvania’s fantastic state parks. He also tries to spend as much time as possible in his woodshop where he makes items he donates to various fundraisers. So far, Suzy, his wife of 32 years, has not insisted that he find a second career!

Department of Ecosystem Science and Management

Address

117 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802
Directions

Department of Ecosystem Science and Management

Address

117 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802
Directions