New director takes reins of Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg

January 6, 2015

Dr. Eric Davidson joins the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory as its new director in the new year. An ecologist, soil scientist, and biogeochemist, Davidson was formerly Executive Director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, where he had worked as a scientist since 1991. 

“We are excited to welcome Eric Davidson to the Appalachian Laboratory,” said Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “He brings an international scientific stature and a commitment to seeking solutions to environmental challenges to this important leadership position.”

The Appalachian Laboratory, one of four University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science laboratories located across the state, is dedicated to the study of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Dr. Davidson will lead a cadre of more than 30 faculty, research associates, staff, and post-doctoral fellows working to better understand the environment.  Located in the mountains of western Maryland, the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Appalachian Laboratory scientists have advised state leaders on air and water quality, wildlife management, and, most recently, best management practices for potential fracking activities in the region. The lab also educates the next generation of scientific leaders and environmental stewards, as eight graduate students work side-by-side with mentors from their field to pursue their master’s and Ph.D. degrees.

Davidson succeeds Bob Gardner, who served as the Appalachian Laboratory’s director from 2005 to 2012 and as professor for 18 years. Professor Raymond Morgan has served as interim director.

“I believe in the mission of UMCES to support world-class science with an eye towards how that science informs environmental policy,” Davidson said. “The combination of having graduate students along with an emphasis on basic and applied science and its relevance to policy is a pretty unusual combination. It is a nice complement to the typical university mission of educating undergraduate students.” 

Davidson’s research career has focused on how human changes to the land affect carbon and nitrogen in soil, water, and air. He is also interested in the interfaces of science, policy, and education, and has published on ecological economics and human alteration of global cycles of essential nutrients for all lifeforms, including humans. His research has taken him to the Brazilian Amazon Basin and to forests and farms across North America. 

He is President-elect of the American Geophysical Union, a 62,000-member scientific society.  He has served as the North American Center Director of the International Nitrogen Initiative and as a senior editor of the scientific journal, Global Biogeochemical Cycles. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been named as a Highly Cited Researcher by the Institute for Scientific Information. 

Davidson has held positions as senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center, as National Research Council Associate at the NASA Ames Research Center, and as Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Soil Microbiology at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his doctorate in forestry at North Carolina State University.