Meet John Copeland

Water Quality Manager

After 25 years as a fisheries biologist in the Blacksburg office of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR), John recently retired to join the New River Conservancy team. During his years as the New River fisheries biologist, he led multiple fisheries management projects including the New River native Walleye restoration program, Claytor Lake fisheries monitoring and habitat restoration. As a participant in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s relicensing process, John helped to shape New River flow agreements with the Appalachian Power Company and improve conditions for river recreationists downstream from Claytor Lake. At Claytor Lake, he developed the Claytor Lake hydrilla management plan, successfully controlling this nonnative invasive aquatic plant, resulting in extensive work on native aquatic vegetation restoration and fish habitat improvement programs. He worked with volunteers in the New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program, heading up the Chapter founding committee, serving as Chapter Advisor, and teaching aquatic ecology and ichthyology.

John is a Past-Chair of the Southern Division American Fisheries Society Warmwater Streams Technical Committee and Past-President of the Virginia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (VCAFS).  In 2014, he received the VCAFS Eugene Surber Professional Service Award. In 2015, he was awarded the New River Conservancy’s Wallace and Peggy Carroll Vigilance Award. In 2017, Friends of Claytor Lake gave him their Volunteer of the Year award.

He previously worked for VDWR in their Farmville, Fredericksburg and Charlottesville offices. During his early career, he held fisheries positions with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, Virginia Power Company, and the Virginia State Water Control Board. He even worked as a foreign fishery observer in the Bering Sea, where he learned the sailor’s life was not for him!

John lives with his wife Lucy on a small farm near Blacksburg. He is an outdoor recreation enthusiast, and spends much of his free time outdoors.

B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife, Virginia Tech
M.S. in Zoology, Minor in Statistics, North Carolina State University