Virginia Tech® home

Todd Schenk

Chair of Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP)
  • Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP)
  • Director of Science, Technology & Engineering in Policy (STEP) Program
  • Affiliated Faculty, Global Change Center (GCC), Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and Center for Coastal Studies
Todd Schenk
263A Steger Hall (0477)
1015 Life Science Circle
Blacksburg, VA 24061
  • Ph.D., Public Policy and Planning, MIT, 2015
  • MURP, Environmental Policy & Planning, MIT, 2009
  • B.A. (Hons), Geography, University of Guelph (Canada), 2002
  • Collaborative Governance
  • Environmental Policy & Planning
  • Science-Policy Boundary Work 
  • Serious Games
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Invasive and Endangered Species
  • Water Quality

  • Civil Discourse
  • SPIA 2554: Collaborative Policy-Making & Planning
  • SPIA 5124: Decision Making, Reflective Practice, and Engagement in STEM-H Domains
  • SPIA 6104: Knowledge Theory & Planning
  • UAP 3354: Introduction to Environmental Policy and Planning
  • UAP 3954: Sustainable Policy-Making & Planning in Europe
  • UAP 5084: Collaborative Planning and Community Involvement
  • UAP 5434: Urban Development Project Review Studio
  • UAP 5794: Environmental Planning Studio
  • UAP 5174: Planning Theory and History
  • PSCI 5104: Policy Gateway: Policy and Decision Making in STEM-H Domains

  • Science, Policy & Management of Invasive Species (Special Topics)


  • Schenk, T. (2018). Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change: Advancing decision-making under conditions of uncertainty and complexity. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Matsuura, M. & T. Schenk, eds. (2017). Joint Fact Finding in Urban Planning and Environmental Disputes. London and New York: Routledge.
Selected Articles and Chapters

  • Reed, E.M.X., T. Schenk, B.L. Brown, H. Rogers, D.C. Haak, J.C. Drake & J.N. Barney (2023). Holistic valuation of non-native species requires broadening the tent. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 
  • Grant, S.B., M.A. Rippy, T.A. Birkland, T. Schenk, K. Rowles, S. Misra, P. Aminpour, S. Kaushal, P. Vikesland, E. Berglund, J.D. Gomez-Velez, E.R. Hotchkiss, G. Perez, H.X. Zhang, K. Armstrong, S.V. Bhide, L. Krauss, C. Maas, K. Mendoza, C. Shipman, Y. Zhang & Y. Zhong (2022). Can Common Pool Resource Theory Catalyze Stakeholder-Driven Solutions to the Freshwater Salinization Syndrome? Environmental Science & Technology, 56 (19): 13517-13527.
  • Bhide, S.V., S.B. Grant, E.A. Parker, M.A. Rippy, A.N. Godrej, S. Kaushal, G. Prelewicz, N. Saji, S. Curtis, P. Vikesland, A. Maile-Moskowitz, M. Edwards, K.G. Lopez, T.A. Birkland & T. Schenk (2021). Addressing the contribution of indirect potable reuse to inland freshwater salinization. Nature Sustainability, 4: 699–707.
  • Meyers, R., P. Miller, T. Schenk, R.F. Hirsh, A. Marathe, A. Seth, M.J. Stern, J. Sim & S.O. Sari (2021). A Framework for Sustainable Siting of Wind Energy Facilities. Energy Impacts: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of North American Energy Development.  Denver, CO: University Press of Colorado. Pp. 315-340.
  • Barney, J.N., T. Schenk, D.C. Haak, S. Salom, B. Brown & E.R. Hotchkiss (2019). Building Partnerships and Bridging Science and Policy to Address the Biological Invasions Crisis. Invasive Plant Science and Management, 1-5.
  • Chu, E., T. Schenk & J. Patterson (2018). The Dilemmas of Citizen Inclusion in Urban Planning and Governance to Enable a 1.5 °C Climate Change Scenario. Urban Planning, 3(2): 128–140.
  • Edelenbos, J., I. van Meerkerk & T. Schenk (2018). The Evolution of Community Self-Organization in Interaction With Government Institutions: Cross-Case Insights From Three Countries. American Review of Public Administration, 48(1), 52-66.
  • Rumore, D., T. Schenk & L. Susskind (2016). Role-play simulations: A tool for climate adaptation education and engagement. Nature Climate Change, 6: 745-750.
  • Schenk, T., R.A.L. Vogel, N. Maas & L. Tavasszy (2016). Joint Fact-Finding in Practice: Review of a Collaborative Approach to Climate-Ready Infrastructure in Rotterdam. European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, 16(1): 273-293.
  • Collaborative Research: GCR: Common Pool Resource Theory as a Scalable Framework for Catalyzing Stakeholder-Driven Solutions to the Freshwater Salinization Syndrome (NSF #: 2021015; $2,034,934; Co-PI) - Inland freshwater salt concentrations are rising across many regions of the United States and globally, threatening water quality, ecosystems, and drinking water supplies. This project is testing a potentially generalizable approach for reversing inland freshwater salinization that relies on local agencies and other stakeholders working in partnership with engineers, hydrologists, social scientists, and policymakers to craft locally tailored “bottom-up” solutions to this growing problem. The test case is the Occoquan Reservoir, a drinking water supply for nearly 2 million people in Northern Virginia. Through convergence research, education and outreach the team is identifying mechanisms that promote collaboration between stakeholders to effectively manage the salt budget of this regionally important drinking water supply. At its core, inland freshwater salinization is a common pool resource (CPR) problem, because inland freshwaters are available to all actors and restricting access would be prohibitively expensive. From detailed studies of collective action arrangements in the water sector, Nobel-laureate Elinor Ostrom developed a social-ecological-systems (SES) framework for diagnosing the conditions under which local actors are likely to band together to manage a CPR without outside interference. This project hypothesizes that Ostrom’s SES framework can be used to diagnose, and resolve, the challenges and barriers that limit, or outright prevent, bottom-up management of inland freshwater salt budgets. 
  • CNH2-S: Species conservation and collaborative governance in an era of global change (NSF #: 2009103; $766,072; Co-PI) - Plants and animals present moving targets for natural resource managers. Species ranges are constantly changing, but this is expected to accelerate in the future with ongoing climate and land use changes. Dynamic conditions present challenges for federal and state agencies and other actors, like non-governmental organizations, charged with managing species. Often these organizations operate according to very place-based management strategies. They also often are pursuing overlapping but distinct management goals. Outcomes for species will be determined by interactions among management agencies and other actors and how effectively they are able to coordinate with one another. This project examines future changes that will affect species and how organizations tasked with managing those species can best respond. When considering responses by natural resource management agencies and other actors, the project focuses in particular on collaborative governance – that is, the steps organizations can take to work together more effectively, to complement one another’s efforts and to reduce redundancies. The project is developing these methods through an examination of biodiversity in the central and southern Appalachian Mountains, a key climate refuge and corridor for species and one that spans the jurisdictions of many different management agencies. Project results will have direct societal benefit by guiding policy decisions to manage biodiversity in the region.
  • NRT-HDR: Convergence at the Interfaces of Policy, Data Science, Environmental Science and Engineering to Combat the Spread of Antibiotic Resistance ( NSF #: 2125798; $3,000,000; Co-PI) - The world is on the precipice of a post-antibiotic era, with projections that deaths due to antibiotic resistance could surpass those due to cancer by 2050. The antibiotic resistance problem is inherently challenging, as conflicting drivers of the problem must be addressed simultaneously if society is to continue to benefit from these life-saving drugs. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) is tackling this problem by equipping the next generation of scientists and policymakers with the technical and professional skills necessary to successfully work in convergent systems and harness the latest advances in data science to inform solutions. The CIP-CAR NRT project addresses a compelling need for training in science-based policy and convergent research across the graduate curriculum at Virginia Tech, nationally, and globally. The NRT is a Ph.D.-level program that combines cutting-edge research with four training elements: a graduate certificate in CIP-CAR Science, Technology, and Engineering in Policy (STEP), boot camps and workshops, a field project, and a transdisciplinary dissertation chapter. The graduate certificate consists of 13 credit hours, focused on ethically engaging with stakeholders and the appropriate use of data science to inform solutions, with modules and case studies devoted to antibiotic resistance and other relevant convergent research topics. The project anticipates training 45 Ph.D. students, including 33 funded trainees, from Policy, Data Science, and Environmental Science and Engineering programs. 
  • Virginia Tech Invasive Species Working group (various internal grants; Co-PI) – Invasive species pose significant risks to agriculture, natural resources, infrastructure, recreation, rural livelihoods, and human health. Habitat loss and climate change are related global change challenges. Virginia Tech's Invasive Species Working Group (ISWG) integrates invasion science with the policy, management, and social demands associated with confronting this global crisis. We bring together biologists and resource managers, social scientists, policy experts, and other stakeholders to facilitate new partnerships across Virginia, the United States, and the World. We have hosted workshops with national and international participants, resulting in publications addressing the science and policy of invasions. Our work has also connected graduate students and the broader VT community with leading professionals in invasion management, advocacy, and mass media.
  • +Policy Network - Member of stakeholder committee and chair of the curriculum committee of Virginia Tech’s +Policy Network. In this capacity, led the development and founding director of new Science, Technology & Engineering in Policy (STEP) program ( 
  • Renewable Energy Facilities Siting Project (various internal grants; Co-PI) – Associate Director of the VT-REFS initiative, which is working to advance best practices in the siting of renewables including better public participation, visualization, and fact-finding methodologies.
  • Climate adaptation planning – Governance approaches to better engage stakeholders in adaptation planning. Part of a funded project exploring stakeholders’ understanding of climate information and how it can be improved (Dynamic Data Visualization to Improve Foundational Statistical Understanding, 4-VA, $98,050).
  • Civility#VT and the Frenemies Project - Action research project working to advance best practices in civil discourse. Workshops run on and off-campus under various banners ( Most recently supported through an ICAD SEAD grant ($24,904, Lead PI).
  • Collaborative governance at the science-policy interface
  • Serious games for action research
  • Wicked sustainability challenges
  • Civil discourse to build empathy and understanding