GEORGETOWN — A forestry scientist whose research focuses on coastal forest, wetland and managed ecosystems has joined Clemson University as the director of the Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science.

Skip J. Van Bloem will join the institute Sept. 1. His primary research areas include landscape ecology, predicting effects of human-set wildfires and changing hurricane patterns on forests and plant species.

Clemson scientists at the Baruch Institute study the environmental impact of changing land-use patterns, coastal natural resource conservation, forestry, water quality and watershed management. Research areas include biochemistry, ecosystems, hydrology and data visualization.

Van Bloem said the history, geography and ecology of the Hobcaw Barony wildlife refuge make the Baruch Institute particularly well-suited to become a leader in understanding and communicating how environmental changes affect coastal communities.

“I’m honored to lead a motivated faculty and staff in new efforts to sustainably manage coastal ecosystems, including the rapidly developing urban systems nearby, as well as doing a better job linking forests to the Agricultural Research and Education Centers at Clemson,” Van Bloem said.

“The university administration has shown the desire to build the institute into a place that will be recognized as a national leader in research on coastal systems,” he said. “It’s going to be a fantastic ride.”

George Askew, Clemson University associate vice president for public service and agriculture and a former Baruch Institute director, said the institute’s coastal location would prove the perfect match for Van Bloem’s experience and research focus.

“The Baruch Institute’s pristine coastal forests and wetlands will provide the ideal location for Dr. Van Bloem to expand his research, engage faculty and further enhance the institute’s reputation for world-class natural resources management,” Askew said.

Most recently, Van Bloem was an associate professor and chairman of the crops and agro-environmental sciences department at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, which, like Clemson, is a land-grant university. His professional experience also includes positions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry and West Virginia University.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies from Western Michigan University, a master’s degree in environmental science from Ohio State University and a doctorate in botany and plant pathology from Michigan State University.

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