July 1, 2002 marked the beginning of a new era in natural resource education, research, and extension at Iowa State University. The formation of the ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) Department through the merger of the Animal Ecology and Forestry Departments was established to continue and enhance the growth of our programs in forestry, fisheries, wildlife, and wood science; providing the platform for building new programs.
The forestry program celebrated its Centennial in 2004 tracing its roots to Gifford Pinchot and the very beginning of forestry education in the United States at the start of the twentieth century. Before that, Dr. Charles Bessey began to introduce elements of forestry into the ISU botany curriculum and was among the first to explore the potential impact of forestation on the climate of Iowa and other states along the prairie-forest interface.
The seeds of natural resource conservation planted during the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt took root, during the dark days of the Great American Depression; exemplified by the massive conservation efforts associated with Federal programs such as CCC and TVA. An early outcome was the realization that more formalized training programs in fisheries and wildlife management were needed. Aldo Leopold, an Iowa native, was among those that helped to create this awareness. Contributions of another Iowan, J. N. "Ding" Darling helped further public awareness of natural resource issues and the need for scientific approaches to the management of fish and wildlife populations. Darling was instrumental in establishing federal Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, formal teaching and research programs in fisheries and wildlife management, at the nation's land grant universities. Iowa State has the distinction of having been chosen as the initiating institution when this innovative program began to function in the mid-1930s, continuing to this day.
During the intervening years studies in forestry, aquatic systems and animal ecology went through a series of steps, first as part of established departments such as horticulture and zoology, and then reaching departmental status as both areas continued to evolve. During this time both Forestry and Animal Ecology Departments were dedicated to training students, many of who have had successful careers and significant leadership roles in government, industry, and academia. The natural resources area has undergone a number of changes, the most recent of which is the merger and establishment of the Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department which brings together forestry, aquatic studies and animal ecology and behavior. The will continue to build excellence and to meet the challenges of a new era.