Introduction

The Department of Plant and Environmental sciences was established in 2009 'to promote learning and research in plant sciences and environmental management and to contribute to a better understanding of the impacts and mitigation strategies for coping with future climate change'. This purpose still underpins’ PES’values of delivering knowledge and high research output in the field of plant and environmental sciences. PES has developed a regional track record for knowledge generation in sustainable natural resources management. In responding to the many daunting challenges in the field of NRM, PES is employing an interdisciplinary programme that is influencing policy change through education and research. PES has a regional reputation in research, with particular expertise in tropical ecosystems,agroforestry,forest ecology and management,and biodiversity conservation.

History

The department of Biomaterials Science and Technology has been offering undergraduate education since 2003. Currently the department offers a Bachelor of Science in Wood science and technology. This degree programme was reviewed in 2007 and 2014 in line with the University Strategic Plan 2014-2018 and, to be in tandem with forest industries and business, to this extent the department works very closely with commerce and industry. The degree programmes that the department offer focus on developing building a strong foundation in Basic sciences, Wood sciences, Wood processing, Timber engineering, Joinery and furniture construction, Pulp and paper technology, Bioenergy technologies, Biofuels, Environmental management, as well as in Entrepreneurship and management in forest industries. The cohort of graduates being produced will help optimize the utilization of wood and non-wood products from plantation and indigenous forests in Zambia and the region. The department boasts of a state-of-the-art Sawmill at Chati Plantation block in Lufwanyama district, where students regularly do their wood harvesting and sawmilling practical work and research. The department taps on the good will for industrial placement of students with several organizations, such as: National Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, Zambia Bureau of Standards, Zambezi Paper Mills Ltd, Wood Processing Industries Ltd, Zambia Forestry and Forest Industry Coorporation, Rainland Timbers Ltd, Copperbelt Forestry Company Ltd, Kroup Wood Company Ltd and many more.

Research

Research in the department is coordinated by a senior faculty member under three sub-themes, namely: Biochemicals and energy, Green construction materials and, Biomaterials value addition, entrepreneurship and marketing. Great strides have been made to establish partnerships, to foster research and consultancy. The research projects range from Wood quality and wood coatings performance, Biodegradation of wood poles, Xylarium and wood database for timber species in Zambia and, Bioaccumulation of chemical elements in livestock. Availability of research equipment which is house in the department and other university laboratories fosters quality research which has resulted in presentation in scientific fora and publication in international peer reviewed journals. Some of the state-of-the-art-research equipment items are: Quanta Scanning Electron Microscope for wood anatomy and microbial degradation analysis, LINTABTM tree ring research, and Testometric Universal Testing Machine for Quantification of mechanical properties of wood.

Careers

The employment prospects for Wood scientists and, Wood technologists are numerous given the diversity in the way forest products are used. The education imparted in wood science and technology is so broad and embraces other fields as well because of the strength and diversity of the curriculum.
Employment prospects are often found in manufacturing, construction, mining, marketing, technical services and management training, as well as in financial institutions, tertiary education while some become entrepreneurs. Other job opportunities are usually found in the private sector, government as a whole as well as in statutory institutions/boards.