A Mississippi State alumnus who most recently was sustainable forestry program manager for a nonprofit research institute is the new head of the university's forestry department.
After 15 years with the North Carolina-based National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, James P. Shepard returned to his alma mater this week to lead the 50-year-old department. Formal approval of his Jan. 3 appointment is pending by the state Board of Trustees, Institutions of Higher Learning.
In his position with the North Carolina institute, Shepard developed and implemented programming focused on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry. Established in 1943 by the pulp and paper industry, the council is recognized as a leading source of reliable data on environmental issues.
The forestry department is part of MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center and serves an industry that contributes more than $14 billion annually to the state.
"Dr. Shepard has served as a leader and administrator for the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, and brings a wealth of academic and government experience,” said Bob Karr, interim dean of the College of Forest Resources and research center director. "His research planning and project management experience, as well as his vast knowledge of hydrology and wetlands, will be an asset to Mississippi's forest industry.”
Shepard has held several positions in NCASI, including forest wetlands program manager and forest environmental scientist. He has been a courtesy associate professor in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida for the past eight years.
His career also includes a five-year research scientist position at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
"I am pleased to be returning to Mississippi and my alma mater after a 20-year absence,” Shepard said. "Mississippi is blessed with millions of acres of diverse and productive forests. The faculty and staff of the department of forestry and I will work with the forestry community throughout the state to ensure a bright future for Mississippi forestry.”
Shepard holds a bachelor's degree in forestry and a doctorate in forest soils from Mississippi State in 1979 and 1985, respectively. He also completed a master's in tree physiology from Purdue University.