He worked with the state wildlife department (then "The Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries") for 4 years as a biologist out of Covington, Virginia, primarily on National Forests.
Then he went to Ohio State University and received a degree in zoology, major wildlife conservation. His dissertation was on pesticide effects in forest ecosystems. Then he joined the College of Forestry and Range Sciences at the University of Idaho, Moscow. There he taught big game management and techniques of wildlife management for 4 years while he continued learning more about computer applications and systems theory.He taught and did research at Virginia Tech for 30 years.
He joined the faulty of the department of fisheries and wildlife sciences at Virginia Tech in 1967. He was influences in a Cornell short course by Dr. Aaron Moen. He continued to recommend computer applications in wildlife and other natural resource areas. These were heightened by his opposition to the Gathright Dam (now Lake Moomaw) and opposition to a major high-voltage power line. These resulted in extensive GIS work in 1968 and later resulting (with his graduate students and staff) in the first statewide GIS (before it was called that). He designed and described for programmers TVA's Division of Forestry Woodland Resource Management System (WRAP). He testified for the legal counsel of the State Corporation Commission on environmental effects of proposed power lines and general aviation airports. He developed contracts resulting in what is now called the "Powell River Project" for alternative land use and management of coal strip mining in western Virginia. He wrote the first "non-game management plan" for the Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries.
While at Tech he taught:
His graduate students completed 59 MS theses and 12 dissertations.
His list of publications on wildlife and related resource topics exceeds 200, including two "principles" wildlife textbooks (one in Chinese) and a techniques manual. Failing (as he perceives it) to get into practice most of his excellent students' ideas and discoveries (and those of others), he has prepared this web site.
With TVA support he created the woodland resource management system of TVA, once used on 300 farms a year. With staff and students, he created the first wildlife information base (BOVA) and a GIS of the State with a thesis in 1969 (before the activity of computer mapping was called GIS). As landowner, chairman of a local planning commission, consultant to the National Wildlife Refuge System, aid to the State Cooperation Commission (powerline impacts), a consultant for Wintergreen and several realtors, he now has a unique and alternative perspective on land and its management. He wrote the first plan for wildlife other-than-game for Virginia. Thirty years ago he was attracted back to Virginia Tech and he has worked there until his retirement in 1998.
In the mid-1970's he worked diligently on a project with the Penn Virginia Resources Company, Duffield, Virginia, to develop ideas for the future of that ownership when the coal was gone. He had a long-running column in the Coalfield Progress. His work with C.B. Slemp initiated the Powell River Project, well-known in the region. Dismissed from that project as it took a different turn from its founding, he has maintained interest in the region and has continued to develop concepts and projects that might one day serve the people there. At Tech he taught wildlife management, systems ecology, integrated pest management, and an environmental course. Recently, after retirement, he offered a distance-learning graduate course at the Northern Virginia Graduate Center. He developed the Haysi environmental analysis for the Corps of Engineers and did many impact studies for mines in Buchanan County. These have been fundamental to his understanding of the area, appreciation of the people and the land, and a sincere regard and concern for the future wellbeing of this part of the state.
He's heard "What's in it for you?" several times about his ideas and about Rural System and sensed that others wanted to know too. Having lived and worked in an environment in which free advice was seen as "worth about that much" he only wants real progress, and the pleasure of seeing some ideas used. Evidence, that will be the payoff; he's already been well-paid by the State University.
He said, "I am now convinced that a superior demonstration of modern comprehensive rural resource management is badly needed and is now possible. I do not want to do research; I want to use research to demonstrate the results of literally millions of dollars of un-used findings. I propose to bring all the power of a concept and the computer that I can to realistic and relevant use on the area for its people .. now and for the long term the very long term. This will include much of that power already achieved by investments of resource agencies. I propose systems, subject to the law, that achieve such objectives, subject to reasonable issues of cost, propriety, and community acceptance.
"The 'bottom line' of this Rural System work is that the lands of the next world should be soundly functioning, at least financially 'break-even' over the long-term (but more than that with a new paradigm of responsible management), and rich with benefits from restored, enhanced, preserved, and managed resources. We can create such systems, but they are more complex than once thought. The work will be challenging and worth the effort."
He once said, "The people of Virginia (and nation) through their taxes have invested a great deal in me over the years. "I have taught and "professed" as was my job. Now I have more to contribute and they have paid me well to do so. I hope they listen now before it is too late for them...or me."
See his book Rural System? Just Dreaming
A For-Profit Conglomerate for Meaningful Jobs
and Improved Natural Resource Management ©
His full curriculum vitae is available.
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 23, 2005