Josh Oliver


Josh is a Geospatial Science major with an environmental concentration from Rocky Mount, Va. He came to Radford University after graduating high school in fall 2010, and actually withdrew from the university due to personal issues. “I didn’t think I was mentally ready to come to college,” recalls Josh. "After taking a year and a half off, I came back to Radford University in fall 2012 and I fought my way up to being one of the best in my major."

In spring of 2014, Josh received a SURF fellowship with Dr. Stockton Maxwell, assistant professor of geospatial science. "I worked on “A Tree-Ring Reconstruction of New River Streamflow, a statistical analysis of tree-ring width and streamflow volume," says Josh. "I presented this research at the Student Engagement Forum and at the Annual SEDDAG Conference in Athens, Ga., November 23-25, 2014." Currently he is working on writing a research manuscript for this project to be published in an academic journal.

In addition to this project, Josh is busy with several other research endeavors. He is currently working on a project with Dr. Christine Small, chair of the Biology department, and Jesse Daniels, a senior biology student, using statistical predictive models based on site dynamics and physical gradients to detect unknown locations of invasive plant species in the central Appalachian region.  

For his senior capstone project, Josh is conducting research using remote sensing predictive models to locate unknown wetland areas to determine the rate of wetland deterioration in Southwest Virginia. "I will be presenting both projects at either the Student Engagement Forum or at conferences and I will be writing manuscripts for both to be published in academic journals in the future," Josh says. "I feel like I have been part of a Cinderella type story: From thinking I wasn’t mentally ready to start my college career to becoming a bright researcher for Radford University."

Josh adds, "In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and girlfriend Sarah, who has been my support group throughout my college career. I also enjoy playing tennis, basketball, and golf." 

Josh's Project:

Under the canopy of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, there are many complex and widely varying systems of vegetation. The main purpose of my research is to categorize and distinguish these ecologically unique areas into semi-discrete microbiomes. The sites chosen will be visually compared based on tree species composition, canopy height and canopy cover. Furthermore, the sites will be evaluated based on other significant ecological variables for differentiating microbiomes such as soil pH and soil nutrients, terrain, and moisture content. From this point, the difference between variables studied will be validated using statistical software to insure that these microbiomes are accurately distinguishable. By categorizing these areas of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, my findings will allow for a great understanding of this very unique forest for future protection efforts.