RU Department of Biology introduces new chair
Small replaces Professor of Biology Joel Hagen, who served in the post for seven years.
"It is a fabulous department and I am excited to help it continue to move forward," said Small of the 23-member department. "They are all committed to training students as scientists."
She is the 2011 Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award recipient and is a founding member of RU’s chapter of the Sigma Xi International Research Society. Small came to RU in 2005 from Connecticut College. She earned her Ph.D. in environmental and plant biology from Ohio University and M.S. from North Carolina State University.
As a forest ecologist, her research interests include the human impact on forests and effects of invasive species on forest health and diversity. Since 2007, she has been working with RU students and the United States Forest Service to assess the effects of the wild harvesting on medicinal plants in the Central and Southern Appalachians. Home to medicinal plants like black cohosh, echinacea and ginseng, these forests are being scoured for exportable products and the native plant populations are being threatened.
For example, she said ginseng, long a staple of area herbalists, is now endangered from overharvesting. Small and RU biology students are helping forest managers develop a sustainable model to guide them by assessing the population of native medicinal herbs and other once-ubiquitous plants in regional forests.
"How we teach is changing. The expectation is for students to do science and to gain practical experience in the discipline," she said." There is a great need for interdisciplinary collaboration that addresses practical questions by understanding and, hopefully, fixing problems that connect us with the community."
Her research has been published in scientific journals such as the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Agroforestry Systems, Forest Ecology and Management, International Journal of Forestry Research, Southeastern Naturalist and The American Biology Teacher.
"Dr. Small will be a great department chair. She embodies the teacher–scholar model that is so important at RU, and is an excellent colleague," said CSAT Dean Orion Rogers. "We look forward to her contributions."