NAU ranks in top 40 for conservation biology research

Northern Arizona University ranks in the top 40 of academic institutions in the United States and Canada for research productivity in the field of conservation biology.

NAU ranks No. 37 overall in research productivity and 27th in total number of publications in the first-ever comprehensive ranking of scholarly productivity in conservation biology. NAU shares the top-40 billing with such institutions as Duke, Stanford, Harvard and Ohio State universities. Also included are Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

The ranking, which compared 315 universities and colleges from 2000-2005, appeared in the October issue of Conservation Biology.

“The large number of publications in leading journals, despite our university’s smaller size, demonstrates extremely high productivity and the quality of the work being done by faculty and students at NAU,” said Laura Huenneke, dean of the NAU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

Huenneke noted NAU’s strong research partnerships with state and federal agencies that are more typical of land-grant institutions. She also cited NAU’s history of interdisciplinary collaboration, pointing to the cross-departmental structure of the college’s Center for Environmental Sciences and Education and collaboration between units such as the School of Forestry and the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

“The School of Forestry’s contribution to this high ranking is due to the research and publications of at least six different faculty members,” said Jim Allen, interim executive director of the School of Forestry. “The research addressed in the School of Forestry’s publications that were counted as part of this study included topics as diverse as restoration of ponderosa pine forests, the effects of wildfire on forest soils and the collapse of bird populations in parts of West Africa as a result of deforestation.”

In November, the School of Forestry ranked No. 10 among forestry programs nationally in the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index of Academic Analytics.

Huenneke and Allen said the university’s structure and values regarding cooperative research prove beneficial in an interdisciplinary field like conservation biology.