Research Associate Professor Kimberly Wallin served on the faculty of the University of Vermont (UVM) Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources since 2007 and as Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs in the School from 2015 to 2018. Dr. Wallin directed the graduate program since 2010. In her joint research position with the USDA Forest Service, she explored complex interactions of forest ecosystems, most notably progressing work on the biological control of the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid.
Dr. Wallin has been selected as Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at North Dakota State University starting March 2020 and will leave the University of Vermont on January 31.
“Dr. Wallin added dramatic value to the graduate research program of the Rubenstein School,” said Rubenstein School Dean Nancy Mathews. “She introduced new and innovative ideas to better support graduate students and advance the U.S. Forest Service’s top research priorities through her hemlock wooly adelgid research. We thank her for her many contributions to the School and wish her the very best in her new position.”
Through Dr. Wallin’s leadership, the Rubenstein School graduate program became a student-directed curriculum with two required courses, provided equitable student stipends, and grew to an enrollment of 50 PhD students. She held monthly graduate faculty meetings to build consensus around program changes, including elimination of the GRE requirement, and helped to establish the first UVM-sanctioned graduate student association in the School.
With expertise in forestry, ecology, genetics, and entomology, Dr. Wallin has conducted research, in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service Northern and Southern Research Stations and with other scientists and stakeholders. She is also a research associate at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and an affiliate faculty member for Oregon State University’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society.
Her research explores questions related to patterns and functions of forests in response to human-induced changes in climate, land use, and introduction of non-native invasive species. Dr. Wallin was featured in the national media for her collaborative research with Oregon State University and the Forest Service on the release and use of predatory silver flies from the Pacific Northwest as biocontrol agents for hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native invasive insect that kills eastern and Carolina hemlocks. She will continue her adelgid research while at North Dakota State University.
She also investigated genetics involved in mountain pine beetle attack and lodgepole pine response, non-native plant interactions, forest disturbance and salvage harvest impacts on arthropods, and dynamics of the vector and causal agent for Chagas disease in Central America, among other research. She will co-lead students on an educational trip to Guatemala related to work with Chagas disease this spring.
More recently, Dr. Wallin integrated environmental sociology and ecological economics into her research approach to explore the human-dimensions of management decisions and land-use change. She collaborated with Professor Walter Kuentzel and doctoral student Ariana Cano on the attitudes people have about invasive species.
The success of her research program can be seen in her more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, 3 book chapters, numerous invited and volunteered national and international presentations, over $4 million in funding to support research and graduate students, and service on many professional committees and review panels and as associate editor for Journal of Forestry and Bulletin of Entomological Research.
But Dr. Wallin views the real contribution of her research program in the success of her 18 graduate students.
“I most enjoyed getting to know my graduate students, being part of their journey through their career trajectory, and helping them to achieve success,” said Dr. Wallin. “I am happy that each of them has a job in an environmental field or has continued their graduate education.”
Many of Dr. Wallin’s graduate students who have finished a degree are now gainfully employed in environmental positions. These include epidemiologist for the state of Vermont, entomologists for the states of Massachusetts and Washington, forest health specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and assistant professor at Ironwood College in Michigan. Still others have continued with graduate or postdoctoral work or are attending law school.
“Kimberly was a loyal and pragmatic advisor who asked me to deliver the best of myself throughout my PhD," said former graduate student Lucia Orantes ‘17, epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health. "I am fortunate to have had her as my advisor and call her my friend now."
“Graduate students are vital to the success of both the Rubenstein School and University of Vermont research mission,” said Dr. Wallin. “They work with their mentors and peers to address environmental and natural resource challenges by integrating applied ecology, the environment, and society. Graduate students bring a lot of energy, optimism, and new ideas to our research program. They often push the envelope of science with their ideas and perspectives and are the future generators of knowledge.”
"My PhD advisor, Kimberly Wallin, has played an integral role in my development as a scientist, providing continuous support and encouragement," said Kirsten Tyler, current graduate student. "I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor who honestly cares about my wellbeing and success. I’m incredibly proud of her new endeavor and can’t wait to see what she accomplishes at North Dakota State."
Dr. Wallin also involved 37 undergraduate students in her research projects at UVM. They engaged as student employees, interns, and Honors College thesis researchers, and many of these students have gone on to graduate school.
In the Rubenstein School, Dr. Wallin taught hundreds of undergraduates in Forest Ecosystem Health and Environment and Sustainability in Arid Ecosystems, both service-learning courses involving community-based projects, as well as Invasion Ecology and Management, an Honors College course. For her ecosystem health course, students worked on community projects with partners at Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation; USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; UVM Extension; and Vermont Urban and Community Forestry.
To honor her dedication to engaging students in community-based service-learning projects, Dr. Wallin received the 2015 Lynne Bond Outstanding Service-Learning Faculty Award from the UVM Office of Community-University Partnerships and Service-Learning, now Office of Community-Engaged Learning. Dr. Wallin served on the Office’s advisory board since 2012.
“I am looking forward to continuing my professional growth and making positive changes in higher education at another land-grant institution and being closer to my family in Minnesota,” said Dr. Wallin. “I will miss my colleagues at the Forest Service, faculty and staff in the Rubenstein School, and especially the students at the University of Vermont.”