Matthew “Matt” Vaughan graduated from Virginia Tech in 2014, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015, received an M.S. in Geography from Texas A&M University earlier this year, and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Forest Resources at Clemson University.
Initially interested in the effects of fire on American chestnut trees, Matt is now studying the effects of fire more broadly on forest communities of the southern Appalachians. “Fire can be a good thing,” he says, “Oak and pines are fire-adapted, and the use of controlled burns by forest managers can be beneficial to forest health.”
Matt’s love of the outdoors and spirit of adventure developed as he progressed from overnights as a Tiger Cub, to attending the Boy Scouts’ High Adventure camp at Philmont in New Mexico, to becoming an Eagle Scout. His first backpacking trip was on the A.T., in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area with his Scout troop. Matt welcomes a challenge, and began his northbound A.T. thru-hike in February 2015, “post-holing” his way through the snow early on.
As an undergrad, he began participating in A.T. work trips with the Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech (OCVT). As his schedule permits, Matt continues to work with OCVT, including organizing a recent backpacking trip in the Smokies and helping to maintain the club’s section of the A.T. Matt has also been a huge Konnarock Trail Crew booster and fit in several days on multiple weeks of Konnarock projects, even while completing graduate school in both 2016 and 2017.
According to Josh Kloehn, ATC regional resource manager for central and southwest Virginia, “When Matt first got involved with OCVT, he went all in. He brought energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work to OCVT’s 28 miles of A.T. In no time he became a certified sawyer—both chainsaw and crosscut—and worked with other local volunteers in clearing blowdowns and keeping the Trail open. He scheduled monthly work trips and worked hard to get Tech students involved in A.T. maintenance. Matt is a devoted A.T. enthusiast, and has left a lot of sweat on OCVT’s section of Trail. His easy humor, laidback attitude, and work ethic served OCVT and the A.T. well. We haven’t seen the last of Matt!”