Roel Lopez, Ph.D., Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute director, has been appointed head of the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, effective Sept. 20.

Roel Lopez
Roel Lopez has been named head of the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management. (Photo by Texas A&M Communications)

“Dr. Lopez has a proven track record working with internal and external stakeholders in developing priorities for research and extension programs to address natural resources challenges,” said Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “These experiences will transition well into directing the teaching of undergraduate and graduate students pursuing career opportunities in natural resource management, and I look forward to the contributions he will make in this new role.”

In addition to his role as department head, Lopez will continue to serve as director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute. Lopez also will continue his research in wildlife population ecology and habitat management, rural land trends and land fragmentation, and military land sustainability.

Stover said he was grateful to all the faculty, staff and students who actively participated in the committee’s search process. He also thanked Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., head of the Department of Animal Science, for his service as interim head of the department.

Dual role fits land, resource management mission

Lopez said both the institute and Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management have long histories of interacting with the university’s natural resource-focused departments. Taking on the department head role was a natural fit, he said. He views the dual appointment as an opportunity for both the institute and department to collaborate in an increasingly synergistic way, including establishing partnerships inside and outside The Texas A&M University System with other institutions, state agencies and universities.

As the Natural Resources Institute director, Lopez’s focus has been in the fields of wildlife ecology and natural resource management. He’s worked with stakeholders to develop institute research and outreach priorities and develop and direct interdisciplinary teams to meet challenges related to the state’s natural resources.

Lopez said the department’s focus will continue to be on maintaining and expanding research, outreach and education in rangeland grazing, land stewardship, and aquaculture and wildlife management. Additionally, there will be a focus on strong connectivity between applied research and teaching undergraduate and graduate students who represent future leaders in the array of fields within the department.

“I think this linkage between the institute and the department presents an opportunity for both to improve how we provide research, outreach and education elements to the broad range of stakeholders we serve in the state and beyond,” he said. “Public health and prosperity are tied to the land. It’s our job to lead with science to provide better and more sustainable outcomes for Texans when it comes to land and resource stewardship.”

Land-grant vision, ag as the solution

Lopez is a strong proponent of the land-grant vision and said the complementary elements of the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and the Natural Resources Institute and how they operate going forward will continue to work toward the land-grant mission.

“Texas is 171 million acres with around 70% being rangelands. That is a sizeable slice of the proverbial pie when it comes to the land that produces our food and fiber and provides ecosystem benefits for wildlife and Texans, including air and water quality,” he said.

“We believe agriculture is the solution to so many challenges in this state, and the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management will continue to take a lead role on stewardship of land holdings and natural resources that are critical to the economy and every Texans’ quality of life.”

More about Lopez

Lopez has been a professor in the department for more than two decades and continues to maintain a split academic appointment. He earned his bachelor’s degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University, and his master’s degree and doctorate in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University.

He has authored 139 journal articles, 20 book chapters, one book and more than 300 abstracts, media articles and technical publications. Lopez also has developed many successful research proposals supporting the needs of various agencies and organizations. He has secured approximately $43 million in support of his research programs and facilitated more than $75 million in grant funding as the Natural Resources Institute director.

Lopez has also mentored 85 graduate students, and currently advises 17 graduate students. He also is currently serving on the AgriLife Research Strategic Planning Committee, Texas A&M AgriLife Professional Services Advisory Committee, Texas A&M AgriLife Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board and the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management Faculty Advisory Committee, among others.

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