Natalie Kruse Daniels named Environmental Studies Program Director

Kat Tenbarge
November 9, 2018

Natalie Kruse DanielsStarting spring semester 2019, Dr. Natalie Kruse Daniels will step into the role of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Environmental Studies program director – a fitting transition for the associate professor, who started at Ohio University in 2009 as the first full-time faculty member for the Environmental Studies program.

In its infancy, the program was housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. Today, it has four full-time faculty members, a growing roster of master’s candidates, and an evolving presence on campus. As director, Kruse Daniels hopes to continue to advance the Environmental Studies program’s goals while boosting the support it offers its students, faculty and professional staff.

Kruse Daniels succeeds Dr. Geoff Dabelko, who has led the Environmental Studies program since joining the University in 2013. He will formally step down on Jan. 1, after using the current fall semester to co-direct alongside Kruse Daniels and acclimate her to the transition. Dabelko will continue in his role as professor and Associate Dean for the Voinovich School.

“Dr. Kruse Daniels will provide leadership to the program as we build and use new delivery platforms and innovative options for curriculum and training; promote closer ties to government, foundation and industry sustainability efforts, and benchmark the program nationally.  She has wonderful ties across campus, and a record of commitment to environmental projects in the region and State,” Dr. Mark Weinberg, Voinovich School founding dean, said.

Kruse Daniels volunteered for the role based on her experience. Balancing her normal responsibilities as a professor and active University community member with the added workload of a director has been an adjustment, Kruse Daniels said, but she’s excited to lead an academic program she has believed in and thrived under for years.

Besides being the longest-serving faulty member in the Environmental Studies program, Kruse Daniels has lived in Athens since she moved here at age six.

“Athens is a great place, and my research is very specific to this region,” Kruse Daniels said. “My research focus is on the impacts of abandoned coal mines and oil and gas operations which are abundant in Appalachian Ohio.”

She received her undergraduate degree in civil engineering with a minor in geological sciences from Ohio University in 2004, and used the British Marshall Scholarship she received to study civil engineering and geosciences at Newcastle University in northern England. Kruse Daniels earned her Ph.D. from Newcastle before moving back to Athens.

Kruse Daniels’ areas of study include watersheds, the legacy coal industry, mining, global water resources, environmental monitoring and environmental engineering. She’s been able to study things like the acid mine drainage and injection wells in Athens, as well as teach her students watershed management and field methods.

Kruse Daniels will continue to teach and direct the program, while also working with prospective and current Master of Science in Environmental Studies students.  Additionally, the Environmental Studies program is currently undergoing the University’s periodic program review process, which has also been “one of many” of Kruse Daniels’ focuses during the transition in directors.

“To a certain point, learning about the position has been my main focus, and trying to plan for the direction of the program,” Kruse Daniels said.

Because many master’s students have gone on to work in government or with corporations seeking to enhance their sustainability efforts, Kruse Daniels also wants to develop closer ties to foundations, industries and government agencies that value environmentalism and could offer future job opportunities for students.

The Environmental Studies program, as part of the Voinovich School, has always emphasized learning by doing, a tenet at the heart of its mission to positively impact communities through applied research. Kruse Daniels volunteered to learn the ropes of being environmental studies program director, and she’s more than ready to assume the role next semester.