UCOWR recognizes nine award categories: Warren A. Hall Medal, Early Career Award for Applied Research, Early Career Award for Extension/Outreach/Engagement, Friends of UCOWR, Education and Public Service Award, Ph.D. Dissertation Award, and JCWRE Paper of the Year. Recipients are nominated by UCOWR delegates and are recognized during the Awards Banquet at the Annual Conference. Awards may not be given if no nominations were submitted or a deserving recipient was not identified.
Dr. Sharon B. Megdal
Dr. Sharon Megdal has been a vital and active member of UCOWR for several years, including service as a Board Member and President. She was also featured in our Member Spotlight (https://ucowr.org/spotlight/september-2016-sharon-megdal/). Please join UCOWR in congratulating Sharon Megdal on this distinguished lifetime achievement award in water resources. To learn more about the Warren A. Hall Medal, please visit https://ucowr.org/awards/warren-a-hall-medal/.
Sharon B. Megdal is Director of The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center (WRRC), a Cooperative Extension center and a research unit in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Her work focuses on water policy and management, on which she writes and frequently speaks. She also holds the titles: Professor and Specialist, Department of Environmental Science; C.W. & Modene Neely Endowed Professor; and Distinguished Outreach Professor.
The geographic scope of Dr. Megdal’s work ranges from local to international. Projects include: comparative evaluation of water management, policy, and governance in water-scarce regions; groundwater recharge; and transboundary aquifer assessment. She is the lead editor of the book, Shared Borders, Shared Waters: Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges. Her policy columns and Reflections can be found at https://wrrc.arizona.edu/director. Dr. Megdal teaches the multi-disciplinary graduate course “Water Policy in Arizona and Semi-arid Regions.”
Sharon Megdal serves as Board President of the International Arid Lands Consortium and Board Member of American Water Resources Association. She also represents the residents of Pima County on the elected Board of Directors for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, also known as the Central Arizona Project (CAP). The CAP delivers Colorado River water to Central Arizona. Dr. Megdal has served on numerous Arizona boards and commissions, including the Arizona Corporation Commission, the State Transportation Board, and the Arizona Medical Board. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Economics from Princeton University.
Dr. David Lampert, Oklahoma State University
Dr. David J. Lampert is an Assistant Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Dr. Lampert received his PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010. Following graduate studies, he received a fellowship from the Department of Energy to study the impacts of bioenergy on water resources at Argonne National Laboratory, where he later served as a staff scientist studying energy-water nexus issues. Dr. Lampert returned to academia at OSU in 2016. He has been awarded grants and contracts exceeding $800,000 from sponsors including the EPA, DOE, USDA, and other private, local, and state organizations. He has published 17 papers in journals including Energy & Environmental Science, Environmental Science & Technology, and Environmental Modelling & Software. His research interests include energy and water sustainability, contaminant fate and transport modeling, and water quality modeling.
Dr. Virginia Smith, Villanova University
Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Water Resources in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Villanova University. She received her PhD studying hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, and sediment transport at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Prior to earning her PhD, Dr. Smith received a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from UT and her BS from Georgia Institute of Technology in Civil and Environmental Engineering. After finishing graduate school, she continued her research studying sediment transport with UT. She went on to work in International Development in Asia and the South Pacific as an Associate Scientist for USAID’s Adapt Asia-Pacific Project. She also worked as the Water Coordinator for USAID in Afghanistan, overseeing water and natural resource management projects in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Since starting at Villanova University, Dr. Smith has leveraged her experiences in her research focusing on rivers, reservoirs, and floodplains change through time, particularly in urban settings.
Dr. Megan Weber, University of Minnesota Extension
Megan Weber is an Extension Educator and Assistant Extension Professor at University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. Her extension program creates volunteer, citizen science, and educational opportunities to empower Minnesotans in protecting the state’s 10,000+ lakes from the impacts of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The impacts of these programs can be seen through the nearly 15,000 hours of service in AIS detection, outreach, research, and management completed in just three years by AIS Detectors volunteers and the discovery of 3 new populations of starry stonewort (20% of the known populations in Minnesota) through an event called Starry Trek.
Dr. Zachary M. Easton, Virginia Tech University
Dr. Zachary Easton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech. The primary focus of his work is to improve our understanding of hydrologic and terrestrial processes that control the biogeochemical cycles and fluxes with the ultimate goal of developing policies and management practices that protect water, soil, and other natural resources. Water is typically his central focus because it is arguably the most critical and at-risk resource to humans and entire ecosystems. His research addresses both native and managed systems, considers processes at plot- to large river basin-scales, and is relatively evenly divided among field study/monitoring, modeling, and application of results to real world problems. Dr. Easton focuses on three broad and somewhat overlapping research themes: 1) Impact of land use and climate (change) on water quality and quality, 2) Impact of watershed management practices on water quality, and 3) Bridging basic research and modeling to management and policy.
1st Runner Up: Dr. Venkataramana Sridhar, Virginia Tech University
Dr. Venkat Sridhar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech. His prior affiliations include Boise State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Washington. Dr. Sridhar earned his Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Sridhar’s research group builds a suite of hydrologic and water resources planning models for many river basins in the U.S and around the world. Ongoing projects in his lab include assessment of future precipitation, temperature, snowmelt, streamflow, soil moisture, droughts and floods in several regions, Mid-Atlantic US, Caucasus and Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, providing insights into planning and managing both land and water resources. He has published more than 160 research articles, including 75 peer-reviewed journal articles and 85 technical papers and several invited talks nationally and internationally. He has trained six postdoctoral researchers, over 20 graduate and undergraduate students, and overseas research scholars.
2nd Runner Up: Dr. Jennifer Adam, Washington State University
Dr. Jennifer Adam is an Associate Professor and Berry Family Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Washington State University (WSU). Her group works to enable humans and the environment to adapt to global change. To do this, they study the connections between climate, hydrology, land use, and ecological (natural and agricultural) processes. This includes understanding how climate variations and direct human influences interact to alter land surface hydrologic processes at watershed, regional, and global scales. Dr. Adam has experience leading multiple large multi-disciplinary research programs, including “BioEarth” that engages ~40 faculty and students in atmospheric sciences, biological systems, communications, computer sciences, earth and environmental sciences, and economics; the “Columbia River Supply and Demand Forecast” which is improving water supply management in Washington State; and “ColumbiaFEW” which is aimed at exploring innovations in technology and institutions that can increase resilience among food, energy, and water sectors.
Dr. David Sample, Virginia Tech University
Jackie Crim, Southern Illinois University
Elaine Groninger, Southern Illinois University
Shelly Williard, Southern Illinois University
Dr. Darren Lerner, University of Hawai’I at Manoa
Darren T. Lerner served as the Associate Director for the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program for seven years and was selected as Director in 2014. As Director, Dr. Lerner oversees all aspects of the program including developing goals, objectives and policies; hiring and managing faculty and staff; overseeing fundraising and budgets; writing proposals and serving as principal investigator; awarding grants and scholarships; public speaking; donor development; coordinating legislative/ congressional interactions; and leading/serving on state, regional and national boards, task forces, committees and other groups. Dr. Lerner also serves as the Consortium Director for the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center and as affiliate research faculty at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology conducting a research program focused on environmental physiology of fishes. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in psychology from the University of Missouri, Columbia, a master’s degree in zoology from Oregon State University, and a PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Water Policy & Economics Category
Dr. Susana Garcia Gonzalez, Penn State University
Susana is a recent Ph.D. graduate from Water Resources Engineering at the Civil Engineering Department in Penn State. She completed her Bachelors in Environmental Engineering in Mexico City. She later pursued her Masters in Water Resources Engineering at Penn State under a Fulbright scholarship. She focused her Ph.D. research on the food-energy-water (FEW) nexus, with particular focus on the water footprint methodology. The goal of her research was to map and quantify indirect water uses associated with the production and consumption of agricultural and industrial products under a data-driven approach, relying on complex network theory, econometrics, and statistical modeling.
Natural Science & Engineering Category
Dr. Mojtaba Fakhraee, University of Minnesota
Dr. Moji Fakhraee is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in water resources science at the University of Minnesota in August 2018. His Ph.D. work, titled ‘’A New Insight Into The Geochemistry Of Sulfur In Low Sulfate Environments,‘’ has implications on studying sulfur cycling in low sulfate environments such as large freshwater systems as well as the oceans of the geologic past (>0.5 billion years ago). As a postdoc at Yale, he is interested in developing a mechanistic understanding of the co-evolution of life and Earth’s surface environments. His long-term goal is to move forward our understanding of how life has shaped our planet and with this end-goal in mind, he recruits a wide range of theoretical, modeling, and experimental toolkits to create, formulate, and test hypotheses on the nexus between life and Earth’s surface conditions.
Runner Up: Dr. Gurbir Singh, Mississippi State University, Stoneville
Dr. Gurbir Singh is an Assistant Professor (Agronomist) at the Delta Research and Extension Center, Mississippi State University, Stoneville, MS. His Ph.D. research was focused on understanding the effects of cover crops on nutrient dynamics and soil properties in row crop production systems. His dissertation work involved six field studies. Most significant work of his dissertation was understanding the fate of 15N urea fertilizer in a no-till corn-soybean system with cover crops in plant, soil and water pools. He has authored and co-authored 29 peer reviewed journal articles of which five were published from his dissertation. Dr. Singh continues to work in Mississippi delta on several research projects focusing on the effects of irrigation systems and drainage technologies, irrigation scheduling, tillage systems and nutrient management on crop production and economic returns at both plot-scale and at the farm scale.
Runner Up: Dr. Siddharth Saksena, Purdue University
Authors: Amit Pradhananga, Mae Davenport, and Emily Green
Abstract: Natural resource professionals increasingly recognize that water protection and restoration efforts require not only technical solutions, but also the active engagement of stakeholders who live and work in the local community. People of color, and those of lower income brackets, are frequently underrepresented in water-related programming or decision-making, although they are often disproportionately affected by water problems. Effective engagement of diverse community members in water programs and projects requires understanding and addressing constraints to action. We conducted 25 interviews with community members who live or work in a highly urbanized Minnesota watershed to explore perceived obstacles to community engagement in local water resource protection and restoration. Based on self-reported race, ethnicity, and general community engagement level, interviewees were assigned to one of three “stakeholder groups” for comparative analysis: formal decision-makers, active white community members, and active community members of color. Qualitative analysis of responses revealed perceived constraints to engagement common to all three groups: inaccessibility and invisibility of water, lack of local leadership in water issues, and limited community dialogue about water problems and solutions. Additional constraints were perceived uniquely by community members of color: cultural constraints around water uses, recreation, action, and inequities or disenfranchisement in community decision-making processes and water programming. Study findings suggest partnership building is needed for collaboration in designing civic engagement programs and improving water protection and restoration projects.