My name is Austin Garren, and I am a PhD Candidate at Virginia Tech in the Forestry program. I was born and raised in Hooper’s Creek, North Carolina, which is about 30 minutes outside of Asheville, North Carolina. My family has lived in the same area of Western North Carolina (WNC) for well over 200 years, and I am proud to call that area my home. After I graduated high school, I moved to Cullowhee, NC and attended Western Carolina University for my undergraduate program. I graduated with honors from Western with my Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship and a Cognate in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. From there, I moved to Blacksburg, Virginia and attended Virginia Tech, earning my Master’s of Forestry. My research during my master’s degree was focused on the soil impacts resulting from using a tethered (or cable-assisted) forwarder on steep slopes ranging from 50-80% in Brazil. I am now working on my PhD in Forestry. My current research is on the productivity, costs, environmental impacts, and characteristics of operations harvesting logging residues used for bioenergy, and on stakeholder expectations, opinions, and general outlooks regarding the current and future state of the industry. Outside of work and school, I am an avid outdoorsman, and in my free time I enjoy many hobbies, including hiking, backpacking, running, fishing, hunting, and woodworking. My wife and I also plan to complete a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail upon graduation beginning mid-April of 2022. I am deeply passionate about the natural world, and I hope through my research,  teaching, and extension work that I can have a positive impact on both the land and the people who live there.