In a fitting tribute to a lifetime of dedication to the natural world, wildlife conservation instructor Donald W. Linzey has been awarded the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education. The award is presented to a Virginia educator who has made significant contributions to natural history or natural science education at any academic level.

Linzey teaches in the college’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation as well as at Wytheville Community College, where he recently retired after serving as a professor of biology for 25 years. His original research is documented in 215 articles in refereed scientific journals and 10 books. His “Vertebrate Biology” textbook is recognized nationally as the most readable on the subject.

“Linzey’s work exemplifies the best research, educational, and outreach practices, standing as a model worthy of emulation by others,” said Professor Eric Hallerman, who nominated Linzey for the Jefferson Medal.

Linzey was an early advocate for endangered species, organizing the state’s first symposium on endangered and threatened plants and animals in 1978 and editing the 665-page proceedings. The event served as a basis for continuing research and stimulated Linzey’s long-term interest in the cougar. Although his research funding has focused on a variety of other projects — from toads to rodents — he has dedicated 40 years to verifying the status of the cougar in the southeastern mountains, particularly in the Smokies.

Almost 50 years after receiving his doctorate in biology from Cornell, Linzey has no desire for true retirement and is still teaching five classes at two colleges, remains involved in research, and has two new books percolating in his brain. “I want to do this as long as I’m able,” he said. “I enjoy working with the students — it’s energizing.”