Nick Balster

University of Wisconsin

Soil Science

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nick Balster is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Soil Science with affiliate faculty status in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Forest Management from North Carolina State University, a Master’s in Forest Ecology from Michigan Technological University, and a PhD from the University of Idaho in Physiological Forest Ecology. His lab, “Collaborations in Ecosystem Science and Environmental Education”, seeks innovative ways to combine research, teaching, and outreach both in ecological systems and education.

In the physical sciences, Dr. Balster’s lab studies the interactions between plants and soils that control the cycling of energy and materials on Earth. These systems span forest communities to prairies to restorations in both “natural” and urbanized landscapes. His lab tends toward mechanistic understanding using manipulative science to inform hypothesis-driven experiments and application for natural resource professionals. For example, Dr. Balster maintains an over 15 year relationship working with forest nurseries throughout the Midwest and has played a key role in understanding the role of vegetation in urban stormwater management.  

Dr. Balster also maintains an active research program in the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is an award winning teacher with over 20 years of experience in teaching and learning. At the University of Wisconsin Dr. Balster teaches or co-teaches 2-3 courses per semester and 1-2 summer courses depending on the year. These courses range from his disciplinary home in Soils and Forestry to education. He also serves as the current chair and lead advisor of the new undergraduate major in Environmental Science, a proud member of the UW Teaching Academy, and is active in many educational initiatives both across campus and nationally. Most notably, Dr. Balster currently serves as Faculty Director of the Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence (MTLE), a program that mentors early-career faculty to become fast, efficient starters in teaching to enhance the research excellence that underpins UW-Madison. 

Workshop Participant, Website Contributor

Website Content Contributions

Conference Presentation (1)

Student Interest is the Strongest Determinant of Success in Introductory College Courses Related to Environmental Science part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Previous Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2016:Program:Oral Sessions:Friday A
This study examined how student background impacts learning by assessing four predictive aspects of academic performance in environmental science college courses: student interest in environmental science previous ...

Other Contribution (1)

What is "Sustainability Education" and How do We Get There? part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Previous Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2016:Program:Panel Discussions
Sustainability themes, in terms of meeting the needs of human society while sustaining environmental support systems of the planet, can be applied to a broad range of courses in the geosciences and provide the ...