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Petra Wood

Petra standing behind some flowers


I’ve focused a lot of research on habitat management through forestry practices. I’ve worked on a lot of habitat changes related to energy development like mining and shale gas development. I’m studying a lot of different species - mammals, salamanders, mostly bird populations. One of the most satisfying things is a lot of our research has looked at ways to use forest management to improve habitats for certain bird species. The results of the research have really been picked up and implemented by a lot of state and federal agencies, so seeing our research being used to help bird populations has been one of the most interesting and satisfying things.

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

I don’t know; I’ve been here my entire professional career. The program I'm in is called a cooperative research unit, so my job is research; however, because I’m at the university, I have this connection with graduate students and education. I guess when I first came out of my Ph.D. program, this was the type of job I was interested in: doing a lot of research and working with graduate students and doing a little bit of teaching.

Moment you knew what you wanted to study?

When I was in high school, I was really interested in biology and nature and the outdoors. And when I got to Purdue as an undergrad, I was like, “Oh! Forestry and Wildlife Management, that would be a good career for me.” In high school, I don’t think I knew there was such a career. I knew I enjoyed biology and outdoor activities.

Moment you knew your current role was right for you?

I’ve stayed in this position 28 years. I guess early on it was a good fit in the sense that there was a lot of really interesting research and important, needed research to be done in West Virginia. And it was a beautiful place to do it, so early on in my career I wanted to do interesting and useful things in a nice place. The mountains and forests are just really nice.

Favorite part of social distancing?

Being able to go for a walk every evening and find all the cool, new plants and things on our property that I didn't know we had. I usually don’t get to spend that much time walking the same trails over and over.

Least favorite part of social distancing?

Just not having those typical day-to-day interactions with colleagues and other faculty and students. Feeling a bit isolated; I think everyone feels that. Just those interactions you’d normally have in the work environment or even in social settings for that matter.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

It would need to be somewhere in the mountains, maybe Central Appalachians. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be West Virginia. My husband and I really like the mountains and the forests and all the diversity we have here.

Just for Fun

Favorite book: Isaac Asimov

Favorite movie/tv show: Nova, nature programs

Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: REM

Favorite local restaurant: My kitchen/my own cooking

Favorite local activity: Hiking at Coopers Rock, biking on the Mason Dixon trails, kayaking