Meet our Forest Director...

Dave Ellum

David Ellum

 PhD Silviculture and Forest Ecology, Yale University
 MF Professional Forest Management, Yale University
BS Wildlife Biology, North Carolina State University
Chair, Environmental Studies Department
Professor of Sustainable Forestry
College Forest Director

Office: Morse 203
(828) 771-3072
*Prospective students should feel free to contact me* 

"In training a student to the activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call "inert ideas" - that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations" A.N. Whitehead, 1929

My family and I moved from Connecticut to the mountains of Western North Carolina in 2007 to join the Warren Wilson College faculty. As a teacher, the opportunity to become a member of this vibrant learning community was an opportunity I could not pass up.  The interdisciplinary focus on environmental solutions that include social and economic perspectives, combined with an engaged student body and dedicated colleagues make the college a fascinating and rewarding place to mentor the next generation of leaders the world needs.

Philosophically, I approach forestry with the understanding that while wood is an important natural resource, it is only one of many benefits derived from healthy forest ecosystems. Some forested ecosystems have the composition and resiliency that make them ideally suited for timber production. Others, such as old-growth stands at headwaters are unique and special places where extractive management should not be an option. However, the vast majority of the world’s forests must be managed for multiple uses including wildlife habitat, cultural and spiritual values, aesthetics, recreation, subsistence agriculture, carbon sequestration, research and timber production.  It is in these multiple use forests that we must work to develop sustainable management practices that ensure healthy forests for future generations, while providing the goods and services required by society. 

Students who participate in the Sustainable Forestry Concentration at Warren Wilson College can expect to benefit from classroom learning and field experience. The college not only has the advantage of being surrounded by one of the most biologically diverse temperate forest systems in the world, it also has 650 acres of actively managed forestland on campus. The forest is used extensively to supplement coursework and is available for student research projects. In addition, students have the opportunity to work on the Forestry Crew, gaining practical experience in the technical side of forest management.  I believe that Warren Wilson’s Triad Education Program, combined with our environmental ethic of sustainability provide a perfect foundation for learning forestry - a discipline that is best learned by doing.

My research and academic interests focus around understanding and conserving understory floristic diversity in managed forests.  I work with research students and the Forestry Crew on projects that investigate the cultivation of medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products, both as components of functioning forest ecosystems and as economic revenue streams for small forest landowners. I am also becoming increasingly interested in Agroforestry and have ongoing projects that students can become involved in, including a perennial polyculture system that integrates and diversifies an agricultural-forest interface. Another major interest is the philosophy of invasive species management in relation to climate change and human manipulation of forest systems. In addition to my work at the college, I also serve on The Board of Directors for The Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association and Forest Stewards.  Of course, there is also the major reason why I do what I do...


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