Tom Waldrop Receives Distinguished Science Award

USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief for Research & Development Jim Reaves recently announced Southern Research Station (SRS) Research Forester Tom Waldrop as the recipient of the Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Science Award for 2011. Waldrop will receive the award this April during the Forest Service Executive Research Team meeting at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In a letter announcing the award, Deputy Chief Reaves recognized Waldrop for “sustained research productivity, contribution of major impact on science technology, scientific leadership, application and benefits of the research, and service.”

Waldrop currently leads the Fire Science Team of the SRS Center for Forest Disturbance Science. The mission of the team, based in Clemson, SC, is to develop the science base to facilitate the use of prescribed fire in the Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains. In 2010, Waldrop and collaborators started the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists, a 400-member group whose purpose is to provide opportunities for managers and scientists to work together on landscape-level initiatives. 

“Waldrop has built a research program that significantly aids natural resource managers—especially fire managers—who use prescribed fire for many objectives,” says Rob Doudrick, SRS Director. “His development of the consortium is a great example of innovation and leadership.”

Waldrop earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in Forest Management from Clemson University in South Carolina, then studied Forest Ecology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for his Ph.D.  After graduation, he held several Post-Doctoral Research Associate positions, first in Knoxville with the Tennessee Valley Authority and then in Charleston, SC, at a Clemson University research site. 

In 1987, Waldrop returned to Clemson to work for the Forest Service Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, (which in 1995 became the present-day SRS).  His first work unit focused on mixed-species management, which allowed him to hone his skills with prescribed fire. Later, Waldrop was reassigned to the SRS unit in Athens, GA, that emphasizes disturbance ecology.  In 2000, he became a leader in the National Fire and Fire Surrogates Study and was promoted to Team Leader for Fire Science within his research unit.