Appalachian Laboratory scientists receive highest university award

April 10, 2014

The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents has selected two faculty members from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science—Dr. Keith Eshleman and Dr. Andrew Elmore­—to receive the 2014 USM Regents’ Faculty Award, the highest honor that the Board bestows to recognize exemplary faculty achievement. This is the first time that two of the Center’s faculty members have been honored in the same year.

"Keith Eshleman’s accomplishments in public service have been extraordinary without question, and Andrew Elmore is an innovative scientist whose research impact extends well beyond the boundaries of his disciplines," said Dr. Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “The fact that two members of our small faculty were selected from the more than 8,000 full-time faculty members in the University System is truly remarkable. That they both hail from our Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg shows that there is clearly something exceptional going on at our lab in the mountains.”

This year, 16 awards in six categories—collaboration, mentoring, public service, research/scholarship/creative activity, teaching, and innovation—were presented. The awards were given by the Chancellor and Board Chairman at the April 11 Board of Regents meeting at UMBC.  

“This is an incredible honor for the Appalachian Laboratory to have two outstanding faculty members receive Board of Regents awards,” said Ray Morgan, interim director of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory. “We are a small laboratory in the number of faculty, so it was wonderful that our extensive efforts in research and leadership were recognized by the USM."

Dr. Keith Eshleman received the 2014 USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Public Service.

A professor at the Appalachian Laboratory and an expert in the field of watershed hydrology, Dr. Keith Eshleman was recognized for his leadership in preparing a landmark report on best management practices for unconventional natural gas extraction, also known as fracking, as part of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative established by Governor Martin O'Malley. The report, completed in 2013, is considered the “gold standard” for best management practices for unconventional gas development. 

The research team led by Dr. Eshleman reviewed practices being used in other states to identify methods and techniques that have been shown to protect air quality, drinking water supplies, water quality, and habitat. These included best practices to address issues ranging from drilling and noise control to waste handling and blowout prevention.

Dr. Eshleman is well regarded for his efforts to provide services to his state and federal government in the form of scientifically rigorous policy recommendations. His research on best practices for shale gas development came on the heels of his participation on a National Academy of Sciences committee that evaluated the potential environmental impacts of uranium mining in Virginia and informed the Commonwealth of Virginia’s recent decision not to lift a moratorium on uranium mining in the state.

Most recently, he published a paper with colleagues at the Appalachian Laboratory showing dramaticimprovements in surface water quality in forested portions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed attributed to reductions in atmospheric nitrogen emissions brought about by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

"Having grown up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is often described as one of the main contributors of water pollution to Chesapeake Bay, I jumped at the chance to join the UMCES faculty back in 1995 because of the opportunity it provided of making a tangible contribution to the environmental restoration of the Bay," said Dr. Eshleman. "With some of my recent research on forested watersheds really coming to fruition and showing improving trends, I feel like I am on the cusp of finally being able to achieve that goal."

For nearly 30 years, Dr. Eshleman has worked as a leading researcher in the field of watershed hydrology, using hydrologic science to inform solutions to major society issues such as reducing nutrient loads to surface waters, mountaintop mining, and unconventional natural gas production. During his career he has published more than 60 papers and co-authored a hydrology textbook. Recent research projects have focused on the hydrological impacts of acid deposition, forest disturbances, and surface mining activities in the Appalachian Mountain region.

Dr. Eshleman completed his Ph.D. in Water Resources at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds a B.A. degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia and an S.M. degree in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Andrew Elmore received the 2014 USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Research/Scholarship/Creative Activity.

At the cutting edge of the linkage of remote sensing, ecology and earth science, Dr. Andrew Elmore is well known for his research on water resources and climate variability and his innovated work with satellite imagery. His research addresses contemporary environmental challenges for society, including urban sprawl, forest ecology, natural resource management, and climate change. Recent publications on how the urban heat islands influence the length of the growing season and on mapping missing and hidden streams have attracted regional and national attention.

From examining the vulnerability of wetlands to sea level rise to identifying the location of stream heads in urban environments, Dr. Elmore is a leader in environmental research, particularly in land-use and land-cover change, ecohydrology (the study of the interactions between water and ecosystems), biogeochemistry, remote sensing (the study of Earth from space and airborne platforms), and spatial analysis. He uses remote sensing and other methods to track environmental changes as a consequence of urbanization.

Dr. Elmore has developed new techniques to identify impervious surfaces areas back to the 1970s and to detect development over the past two decades to better understand the impact of urbanization on aquatic resources, a major problem facing the Atlantic Coast. He saw a need for comprehensive stream maps in Maryland and developed a technique to predict the location of streams from commonly available topographic data.

”People are often surprised to learn that we don’t have good maps of streams, but we really don’t,” said Dr. Elmore. “Our map changes that, and therefore provides the needed data to make informed decisions about development that will impact streams.”

He has also contributed to the tools used to study the response of forests to global climate and land use changes, including methods to detect and quantify the timing spring leaf emergence and autumn coloration in forests, leaf chemistry in grasslands, and vegetation-monitoring techniques sensitive to the 3-D structure of forest canopies.

Dr. Elmore worked closely with Dr. Keith Eshleman on the best-management practices report for shale gas development in Maryland. The Governor’s order required a comprehensive study to identify the best practices that should be applied to natural gas exploration and production of the Marcellus shale gas reserves. The report laid the foundation for setting the highest standards possible to avoid and minimize impacts to western Maryland’s rural landscapes.

Dr. Elmore joined the faculty at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory as an Assistant Professor in 2006 and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2013.  He received his B.S. from Purdue University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Brown University.

The Board of Regents Faculty Awards, established in 1995, publicly recognizes distinguished performance by educators and researchers within the University System of Maryland. Award categories include: Collaboration, mentoring, public service, teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity. Recipients are given $1,000 and a plaque of recognition.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is renowned for its groundbreaking research on coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and boasts a number of globally eminent faculty scholars. Drs. Elmore and Eshleman join an impressive group of UMCES faculty members who have received Regents’ Faculty Awards, including Drs. Patricia Glibert, Rose Jagus, Rodger Harvey, Ed Houde, Michael Kemp, Tom Malone, Margaret Palmer, Allen Place, David Secor, and Diane Stoecker.