CULLOWHEE – Rob Young, Western Carolina University associate professor of geology, has been appointed director of the Helen Patton Environmental Research Center, a 10-acre facility in Macon County that provides opportunities for Western students and faculty to conduct field-based environmental research projects.
The research center, located in the scenic Patton Valley just south of Franklin, was a gift to the university in 1997 from Helen Patton, a Western alumna and retired art educator. Born and raised in the valley, Patton purchased the 10-acre estate in 1978.
Since her retirement in 1981, Patton has nurtured the property as a showcase of conservation and natural beauty. The tract was originally part of land settled in 1820 by her great-great grandfather, George Patton, for whom the valley is named.
Young, a WCU faculty member since 1997, has conducted extensive research into Southern Appalachian wetlands ecosystems and various coastal issues, including coral reef environments and hurricane impact. Young is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary and earned his master’s degree from the University of Maine and his doctorate from Duke University.
Young said he plans to increase the center’s focus on educational outreach by creating a science education center for public school students and teachers, focusing initially on Macon County schools. That project is being supported through a collaboration with Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions and a new graduate assistant’s position provided by WCU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies.
“We plan to utilize students in Western’s science education programs to host environmental research and education activities for area young people. We believe this effort will open the door to considerable grant opportunities in environmental education,” Young said.
For more information, contact Young at (828) 227-3822.