A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State

A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State

The Department of Ecosystem Science and Management has its origins in the evolution of academic departments that conducted research and education in scientific disciplines related to the management and understanding of forests, wildlife, soils, and other natural resources.

The roots of more than a century of forestry education at Penn State date to 1903, when Dr. Joseph Rothrock established the State Forest Academy at Mont Alto, Pa. Soon after, in 1907, the Department of Forestry at University Park was established as part of Penn State, founded in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School and in 1863 officially designated as Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution.

In 1929, Penn State’s Department of Forestry absorbed the State Forest Academy, and in 1954, the department became the School of Forest Resources. A wood products curriculum was added in 1942, and a wildlife and fisheries science curriculum was created in 1981.

Coincidentally, the Department of Agronomy also was established in 1907 and included the traditional disciplines of soil and crop sciences, as well as farm economics and farm machinery and structures. The first graduating class in 1908 had five students.

A new undergraduate major in Soil Science was approved in 1990 and renamed as Environmental Soil Science in 1999. The department's name was changed in the late 1990s to the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

In 2012, to more effectively address multi-faceted challenges and opportunities related to complex ecosystems, the forest science, soil science, and wildlife and fisheries science disciplines were blended in an academic reorganization to create the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. The department offers a strong, interdisciplinary foundation in the science and management of natural resources and prepares students to apply sound science to real natural resource management problems.

As part of the reorganization, the Wood Products degree program is being phased out, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering has created a new major, BioRenewable Systems, that incorporates educational and training opportunities offered in the current Wood Products program. With the recent discontinuation of the Environmental Soil Science major, students with an interest in soil science expertise pursue studies in an option under the college's Environmental Resource Management degree program.

Detailed History Available for Sale

For a detailed history of forestry programs, see A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State, written by Dr. Henry Gerhold for the 100th anniversary of the former School of Forest Resources in 2007.

The book details events that led to the founding of the school, featuring several pioneering men and their sole female peer. It includes progress in academic programs and facilities, along with accomplishments of the school’s most prominent graduates and faculty.

Fascinating, little-known stories—such as students hanging officials in effigy, an interloping bear in a classroom, administrative battles, and a tale of the original Nittany Lion—are interspersed among the historical record.

Ordering Details

A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State: Serving Our Forests, Waters, Wildlife, and Wood Industries

Author: Henry D. Gerhold   
Publish Date: 1/29/2007
Dimensions: 6 x 9
Page Count: 296 pages
Illustrations: 40 illustrations
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-02964-
Cost: $35.00 plus $5.00 shipping  (International addresses will be charged additional postage)

Order online from the Penn State University Press, call 814-865-7541, or send e-mail to