Who We Are and What We Do

We are a group of research scientists, graduate students, staff and faculty working in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES) at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Our combined research, teaching and outreach programs focus on the development of new techniques and strategies for the rehabilitation of drastically disturbed soils and landscapes. We work with the full continuum of lands affected by mining and mineral processing, roadway and utility corridor development, urbanization, dredge material management, industrial and municipal residuals, and wetland creation/restoration.


Our History

Our group’s mined land reclamation program was initiated by Dr. Dan Amos in the mid-1970’s and focused on coal mine spoil weathering and mine soil properties through 1979.  In 1979, Dan Amos was one of the founding Virginia Tech researchers who established the Powell River Project mined land reclamation research program in Wise County and surrounding areas of SW Virginia.  In 1980, W. Lee Daniels was hired to work for Dr. Amos as a Research Associate and tasked with mine soil mapping and pedogenesis studies. 

Over the early 1980’s, Dan and Lee worked closely with Dr. Jim Burger to relate mine spoil and mine soil properties to forestry potentials and to fund, build and establish the Controlled Overburden Placement Experiment, which remains today as the longest continuously monitored experiment of its kind in the world. Dan Amos left for a sabbatical leave in Nepal in 1982 and recommended that W. Lee Daniels run his teaching and mined land research programs in his absence.

Jay Bell and Carl Zipper worked with Lee to run various aspects of the continuing coal mine reclamation research programs throughout the mid-1980’s. Dan never returned to his former position, and Lee was converted to a tenure track position in 1987 and has remained at Virginia Tech since.

Our group is also known internally as the ‘Marginal Soils Research Group’ due to the fact that we never get to work on the productive native soils that our CSES colleagues get to study. Over the years, our program has expanded to include wetland creation and restoration sites, metal smelter wastes and tailings, mineral sands mines, highway rights-of-way, construction sites, dredge spoil impoundments, manufactured soils, acid sulfate soils and other human impacts. Unfortunately, we see no shortage of future challenges to work on!

In 2018, we became part of the new School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES).

Our People

Our Family of Scientists & Staff – Present & Past
The collection of people who have worked on various rehabilitation projects since the early 1970’s has grown to over fifty individuals. Some of these folks have moved to other places and endeavors and some have remained under our program’s umbrella.



Recognition and Remediation of Acid Sulfate Soil Conditions in the Fredericksburg Area

January 24, 2020, Fredericksburg, VA Join Virginia Tech’s Dr. Lee Daniels and Dr. Zenah Orndoff for a public seminar and outreach program. “Land development and construction in the Fredericksburg area commonly unearths sulfidic geologic materials which rapidly weather to produce acid sulfate soil conditions… leading to degradation of local soils, water quality and infrastructure. Virginia…

ASMR 2020 Meeting

American Society of Mining and Reclamation Annual Meeting. Duluth, MN. 7-11 June 2020 The theme is “Transforming Pits and Piles into Lakes”


Dr. W. Lee Daniels

244 Smyth Hall (0404)
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

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