Category: Research

This is a dispatch from Theodore Endreny’s sabbatical in Italy….

The urban areas of our planet are an extremely popular living environment, and the simple act of maintaining or increasing tree cover can profoundly improve urban sustainability [0]. The global urban area covers only 4% of our land, yet it contains 60% of our population. The metabolism of these areas is enormous, with each person needing between 1 and 10 hectares of non-urban area to support their resource consumption and waste generation [1]. Urban trees can help reduce the ecological footprint of this metabolism and improve ecosystem carrying capacity by delivering an array of ecosystem services. These services include production and regulation, such as growing nutritious foods and maintaining a livable climate, as well as supporting and cultural services such as biodiversity and peace of mind [2]. With urban areas containing such a high density of residents, an urban tree has the potential to improve the well-being of a large number of people. Our i-Tree research team develops tools for measuring the benefits of urban tree cover in order to help communities manage their sustainable well-being. In January 2016 we initiated a collaborative urban metabolism research effort with Italian scholars (led by Professor Sergio Ulgliati of Parthenope University) to collect data on tree cover and potential tree cover in a set of global urban areas, predict the associated ecosystem services, and investigate whether trends in tree cover and their services scale geographically or demographically. Our urban areas include several in Italy, such as Naples were the group is stationed, as well as the global megacities (Tokyo, Beijing, Istanbul, Cairo, London, New York, Manila, etc), defined as areas with at least 10 million human inhabitants.

This report presents the first step in our urban metabolism research, which was to select a method for determining the percent of tree cover, and potential tree cover, in our set of global urban areas. Although there is no international standard for land cover classification, most land cover maps limit classes to landscape units and fail to explicitly include trees in urban landscape units, limiting them to forested units [3]. Ecological engineers will often use such landscape units, and make inferences about associated ecosystem structures (e.g., trees) and services (e.g., wood and fuel products, climate regulation) they need in their project designs (see Figure 1). However, in urban landscapes there is no explicit estimate of the tree cover and structure, and the assumption of zero tree cover ignores the substantial value contributed by existing urban trees [4].

Illustration of landscapes and their associated ecosystem services, where parks and gardens are an extremely valuable sub-unit providing services in the Urban landscape.

Figure 1. Illustration of landscapes and their associated ecosystem services, where parks and gardens are an extremely valuable sub-unit providing services in the Urban landscape. [credit Millennium Assessment]

Our research method involved testing several products to estimate tree cover in Naples, Italy, defined by its political boundary to have an area of 118 km2. By testing several land cover classification products we could determine if there were differences in the estimated area between products, and then identify which product would be best for our classification of trees in the set of global urban areas. We considered the following products, NLCD, CORINE, MODIS, MAGLC, i-Tree Canopy, each explained below: In the US, the 30 m raster National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) from LandSAT is a common land cover product that classifies urban areas as 21 – 24 (developed areas of low to high density), and forested areas as 41-43 (deciduous, evergreen, and mixed forests). In Europe, the polygon CORdination of INformation on the Environment (CORINE) land cover dataset is a common land cover product that classifies uses the class of artificial areas, and sub-classes of continuous or discontinuous urban fabric, which can include many sub-classes of residential cover, as well as several forest area classes such as agro-forest, broadleaf, coniferous, and mixed forests. Global datasets include the 500 m raster Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Land Cover product (MCD12Q1) that has a single urban class and five forest classes (evergreen needle and broad, deciduous needle and broad, and mixed). The Millennium Assessment global land cover (MAGLC) used similar data to create a 1000 m raster land cover map that inventoried landscape elements for estimation of associated ecosystem services, and it used 1 urban class called artificial cover, and several forest classes (e.g., broad leaf, needle leaf, mixed). An alternative method for land cover inventories involves a random survey, using photo-interpretation with i-Tree Canopy, to identify the fraction of inventoried points in discrete land cover classes, such as deciduous tree and evergreen tree to identify tree canopy, and other classes to discriminate between non-plantable and plantable areas, such as impervious area that is not-plantable, and impervious are that is potentially plantable. Outside of the United States, in place of NLCD we used the LandSAT based maps of forest cover, created by M.C. Hansen et al., and published in Science.

Our results clearly identified the i-Tree Canopy photo-interpretation product as the best estimate of tree cover, and the product we will use for future urban land cover characterization. The Naples area has a mixture of landscape units, including urban and forest, clearly seen in aerial photographs (Figure 2). Using i-Tree Canopy with a 2014 photo dataset the tree cover of Naples was estimated as 24.2% of the urban area, and potentially plantable urban area, such as sidewalks and plazas, could contribute another 20% of the total urban area to canopy cover. This estimate is based on a survey of 500 points, which takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete, and it had an uncertainty of 2%; 500 points is a recommended minimum for controlling the uncertainty in the estimate.

No other land cover product approached this i-Tree Canopy estimate of 24.2% forest cover. LandSAT (i.e., Hansen et al. equivalent of NLCD) estimated tree cover in Naples for 2014 as 6.3% of the total area, with this number accounting for all detected loss and gain in cover between 2000 and 2014. CORINE estimated forest cover from 2006 data at 7% of the Naples area (Figure 3),the MAGLC estimated forest cover as 4.5% from 2000 data (Figure 4), and MODIS estimated forest cover from 2013 data as 1.8% of the Naples area (Figure 5). Although the dates of each land cover product were different (2014 to 2000), this is not expected to explain the range in tree cover (24.2 to 1.8%). The MODIS and i-Tree Canopy products are closest in date (2013 and 2014), yet they capture the 22.4% range in variation between the maximum and minimum estimates. In general, based on land cover analysis by the Naples government, the vegetated area in Naples has decreased by 1.2% between 2011 and 2015, suggesting the 2014 data product used by i-Tree Canopy is a conservative estimate of tree cover. Given the uncertainty in this estimate is less than 2%, it is also considered the best estimate, and spatially it is the most precise estimate by providing a value for tree cover in the urban fabric.

The i-Tree Canopy product used in photo-interpretation. Naples is bounded by the red polygon, and the area surrounding Naples includes the Mediterranean to the south, and mixed uses to the north.

Figure 2. The i-Tree Canopy product used in photo-interpretation to estimate 22.4% tree cover in the red polygon that is Naples.The area surrounding Naples includes the Mediterranean to the south, and mixed uses to the north.

The CORINE land cover product.

Figure 3. The CORINE land cover product to estimate 7% tree cover in the red polygon that is Naples.


The MAGLC land cover product.

Figure 4. The MAGLC land cover product to estimate 4.5% tree cover in the red polygon that is Naples.

The MODIS land cover product.

Figure 5. The MODIS land cover product to estimate 1.8% tree cover in the black polygon that is Naples. It also mis-classified a rocky outcrop as snow and ice.

Future work in this research area will involve applying the i-Tree Canopy tool to nearly 30 global cities. We are interested in having volunteers contribute to this work, and if you are interested please contact us (see below). We will then apply the i-Tree Canopy surveys of land cover types to estimate the existing and potential ecosystem services in these urban areas. This will include using the i-Tree Hydro tool to examine stormwater runoff and how trees reduce volumes and pollutant loads. For the i-Tree Hydro applications, the i-Tree Canopy photo-interpretation product was able to sub-classify each tree cover area by the type of land cover below the canopy, as either impervious or pervious. This sub-classification is important for simulation of urban water balances, in order to allow precipitation passing below the canopy to partition into soil infiltration or overland runoff. The i-Tree Canopy product identified shrub and herbaceous cover in the urban environment, as well as bare soil areas, and of course the impervious areas as potentially plantable or not plantable. The i-Tree Canopy tool could be used to provide data for regression models that estimate the tree cover for each urban class used in CORINE and NLCD (e.g., LandSAT product by Hansen et al.), perhaps implementing multiple-regression with additional explanatory variables such as geographic region or urban density. This would allow users of these CORINE and NLCD data products the opportunity to benefit from our estimates of urban tree cover.

Contact information: Dr. Theodore Endreny,

Acknowledgement: The scholarly collaboration for this project has been supported by the U.S. – Italy Fulbright Commission and Parthenope University through a Fulbright Scholar grant to Theodore Endreny to serve as Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science at Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, and by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry through a sabbatical leave to Theodore Endreny.


The SUNY ESF ERE program shares with the National Academy of Engineering a commitment to maintain excellence in undergraduate training. One training initiative is the development of capstone, co-op, and course programs that bring students real world experiences, often through partnerships with industry, agencies, community groups, or other organizations. These experiences are a blend of teaching and research and outreach and provide high level training through inquiry and experience outside of the classroom. The results of these endeavors are better trained engineers and new solutions for society – benefiting all involved in the partnership.

Ideas for such training are provided in the NAE report, Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education, which summarizes this training initiative and provides a comparative framework for showcasing the excellence of ERE’s capstone and course program, ERE Planning and Design. The reason ERE was not featured in this report is the NAE could only fit 29 programs into the document, and ERE was represented by similar programs. To achieve greater success in ERE Planning and Design our department plans to grow our external partnerships, and perhaps reach the success of Harvey Mudd College’s capstone program featured in the report. More on that effort later. For now, here is the NAE report.

NAE Report Cover Image

NAE Report Cover Image

From the NAE report: “The aim of this report is to encourage enhanced richness and relevance of the undergraduate engineering education experience, and thus produce better-prepared and more globally competitive graduates, by providing practical guidance for incorporating real world experience in US engineering programs. The report, a collaborative effort of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), builds on two NAE reports on The Engineer of 2020(NAE, 2004; 2005) that cited the importance of grounding engineering education in real world experience. This project also aligns with other NAE efforts in engineering education, such as the Grand Challenges of Engineering, Changing the Conversation, and Frontiers of Engineering Education.

“The Real World Engineering Education (RWEE) committee invited nominations from US universities and colleges that offer programs in undergraduate engineering, some of which involved partnerships with other types of institutions, corporations, or community members. The committee gave preference to 4-year programs that could be adopted or adapted at other institutions. Nominating institutions were asked to provide a description of the program, its start date, anticipated and actual outcomes, original and current funding, number and diversity of students and faculty involved in the program, partners, and methods of assessment (to facilitate ongoing improvement of new programs).

“The number of nominated programs—89, at 73 public and private universities and colleges around the country—indicates the importance many institutions place on the incorporation of real world experiences for their engineering students. Furthermore, we are pleased to note that, although some of the nominated programs have been operational for several decades, over half were launched since 2006, which suggests an increasing interest in enhancing US undergraduate engineering education through the inclusion of practical, real world experience.

“The 29 selections described in the following pages feature a diverse range of model programs in terms of institution type, program category and scope, geographic location, and longevity. The report also includes a section on potential barriers to implementation, as described by engineering and engineering technology deans, together with suggested methods of overcoming those barriers.

“We are excited about the potential of this report to promote awareness and adoption of programs that incorporate real world experiences in engineering education. We believe the report will be useful to both academic and industry professionals interested in engaging and better preparing engineering students for the workplace and for competition in the global economy. “

Our ERE program is proud of our very own ESF earning the #6 ranking for Colleges Saving the Planet. We have great company, with rank 1 to 5 going to MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and CalTech. The commendation focuses on energy resources, and we would likely be higher if rankings considered our strengths in water resources engineering, geospatial engineering, and ecological engineering. The review says ESF “…offers this soup-to-nuts undergraduate degree for those who want to change the way we find, develop and sell energy. Students build management skills while focusing on issues of energy resources, markets, energy security, and energy policy. Students divide time between the classroom and the laboratory at ESF’s Syracuse campus”

Read more about this story from Online College Database

ESF has excellent company in its "Saving the Planet" leadership

ESF has excellent company in its “Saving the Planet” leadership

The Online College Database ranking says, “Students motivated to make a difference have a near-endless list of colleges and degree programs from which to choose. Yet for those with a passion for planet Earth, green science, green technology and, yes, green law schools across the nation offer innovative programs that turn out graduates armed for the environmental challenges ahead. Even traditional fields such as business administration and manufacturing are adopting cutting-edge green methodologies, allowing students to create hybrid careers where the jobs are.

These 50 colleges and universities not only host students in the lecture hall, they put them to work in research laboratories where scholars practice real-time, ecological heroism.”

The National Park Service (NPS) is committed to restoring flow and habitat along sections of the Delaware River to protect the federally endangered dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon). This past year the NPS has partnered with the ERE Department faculty and students to model the likely flow impacts to upstream watershed management decisions. This is a continuation of earlier NPS research on dwarf wedgemussel response to flow and temperature in the Delaware River. The flow regime of the Delaware River through Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River has been altered from its precolonial condition by human land use (e.g. deforestation, development), out-of-basin water diversions, and the managed water releases from the Cannonsville (West Branch), Pepacton (East Branch), Neversink, and Wallenpaupack Reservoirs. The flow regime of a river is a “master variable” that strongly affects numerous interacting physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the river and floodplain.  For example, as summer low flow decreases, the river water depth, width, and velocity typically decrease, river water temperature typically increases, and river water dissolved oxygen typically decreases. The altered flow regime has likely had widespread, systemic impacts on native river biota, including populations of the federally endangered dwarf wedgemussel at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.

Dwarf wedgemussel on river bottom. Image from Wikipedia.

Dwarf wedgemussel on river bottom. Image from Wikipedia.

The goal of this research project is to answer a central question to ecological flows:   What is a feasible range natural unregulated flows for the upper Delaware River based on process-based simulation of pristine land use controls on rainfall-runoff processes?  Answering this question will enhance the scientific foundation for managing Delaware River flows in the future.

The National Park Service manages 113 miles of Wild and Scenic River along the upper Delaware River: 73 miles as the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (UPDE), and 40 miles as the Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (DEWA). New York City operates three major water supply reservoirs in the upper Delaware River Basin: one on the West Branch (Cannonsville), one the East Branch (Pepacton), and one on the Neversink River (Neversink).  As a result of a 1954 Supreme Court Decree, New York City has authority to divert up to 800 million gallons per day (mgd) from these reservoirs and the Delaware River Basin for municipal water supply, provided certain minimum flows are maintained at Montague, New Jersey. The flow regime of the river through UPDE is largely determined by water releases from the Cannonsville Reservoir (West Branch), and to a lesser extent, from the Pepacton Reservoir (East Branch). The flow regime at DEWA is also affected by these releases and the minimum flow requirement.

USGS map of Delaware River Basin and physiographic provinces.

USGS map of Delaware River Basin and physiographic provinces.

The Delaware River Basin Commission initiated the Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP) in 2007 to identify and adapt for appropriate ecological flows that meet prescribed river management criterion. An underlying goal of this effort, supported by the National Park Service, has been to restore a more “natural” flow regime to the upper Delaware River. Identification of a “natural” flow regime for the Delaware River and major tributaries involves determining how land use change and reservoirs have impacted flows.

In 2009, The Nature Conservancy studied impact of hydrologic alteration (IHA) on the Delaware River caused by water diversion and operation of the New York City reservoirs [Apse et al., 2009]. The IHA analysis compared pre- and post-reservoir flows, with the East Branch Delaware Pepacton Reservoir analysis based on the Downsville gage from 1941-1954 for pre-reservoir conditions and from 1983-2007 for post- reservoir conditions. The West Branch Delaware Cannonsville Reservoir analysis was based on the Stilesville gage from 1953-1963 for pre-reservoir conditions and from 1983-2007 for post- reservoir conditions. The analysis found annual low flows have decreased by 80% below the Pepacton Reservoir and by 43% below the Cannonsville Reservoir, and the timing of the low flows has shifted from late summer to late fall.

The objective of this NPS-ESF research is to apply the proven USGS WATER watershed model for the Delaware River East Branch watershed at Downsville, NY (USGS gage 01417000, 372 mi2), West Branch watershed at Stilesville, NY (USGS gage 01425000, 456 mi2), and larger downstream watershed at Callicoon, NJ (USGS gage 01427510, 1,820 mi2) with updated watershed input data and parameters to compute flows for three distinct land cover types, the 1500s pre-colonial, early-1900s deforested, and mid-1900s pre-reservoir periods. The NPS-ESF team is collaborating with USGS personnel involved in the WaterSMART initiative, where SMART is an acronym for Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow.

Professor Ted Endreny and his PhD students Tom Taggart and Emily Stephan are giving a free webinar on using iTree Hydro for simulating Green Infrastructure this June 27 from 2:30 to 4 pm EDT.  Justin Kenney, the Vermont Green Infrastructure Coordinator who arranged this webinar, wrote this about the event: “i-Tree Hydro is a stand alone application designed to simulate the effects of changes in tree and impervious cover characteristics within a defined watershed on stream flow and water quality. It was designed specifically to handle urban vegetation effects so urban natural resource managers and urban planners can quantify the impacts of changes in tree and impervious cover on local hydrology to aid in management and planning decisions. Researchers at the State University of New York in Syracuse are using i-Tree Hydro to model the hydrologic impacts (water quality and quantity) of green infrastructure. Green infrastructure includes a variety of methods such as rain gardens, bioretention basins, and green roofs used to capture, infiltrate, and transpire rainfall and runoff. Using predominantly natural processes, green infrastructure can clean water, restore soils, landscapes, and receiving water, improve air temperature and quality, and fortify and sustain our economy.”

Images of various Green Infrastructure techniques.

Images of various Green Infrastructure techniques.

In 2010 Endreny, with the NYS DEC Green Infrastructure program and ESF Outreach, and funding from the USDA Forest Service, created an initial demo on how iTree Hydro can simulate Green Infrastructure. ESF student Kelly Metz performed much of this work, and it is now available as a iTree Hydro GI demo on the web.  ESF student Colin Bell was also involved in that research and developed the Green Infrastructure Calculator.

iTree Hydro is part of the iTree toolkit developed in partnership with the USDA Forest Service.

Use GoToMeeting to register.

Associate Professor Doug Daley (ERE) and graduate student Michael Amadori (MS, 2012) were featured in a segment of a locally-produced television program about diverting food waste from landfills and into progressive recycling programs to recover nutrients and energy. WCNY’s program Insight ( focuses on topics of interest in central and upstate New York. Food waste (kitchen scraps, expired products, preparation materials) comprises nearly 1/3 of the residential waste stream in the United States. Some people use back yard composting piles, and some communities on the west coast use source separation to divert organic materials into centralized composting and mulching operations. At ESF, we continue to seek progressive solutions to managing food waste, including anaerobic digestion to produce methane and  innovative research such as Amadori’s use of food waste as a fish food.

The idea of feeding post-harvest food scraps to animals raised for human consumption is not new in agriculture, though the use of post-consumer food waste as animal food is relatively untried. There are a number of concerns with using  post-consumer waste, including bacterial and viral contamination, undesirable components (such as plastic, glass, utensils, bags, etc.) and variable waste quality (e.g., protein, liquid, carbohydrate content).

Image of post harvest food wast, from

Image of post harvest food wast, from

Amadori investigated the potential recovery and beneficial use of post-consumer food waste generated in one of the Syracuse University dining facilities. Amadori’s research assessed the use of dining hall food waste as a fish food in lieu of using commercial feed for farm-raised fish such as tilapia. Recovering the embodied energy and nutrients in food waste is consistent with federal policy on resource conservation and recovery, and is a focus of our graduate program in ecological engineering.

Amadori recovered buckets of food scraps from the dining hall. He then sorted, weighed, ground, pelletized and dried  the food scraps to produce small pellets to feed the fish in his experimental setup. Michael raised Nile tilapia from fingerlings for about 6 months, one of the longest running research projects of its kind. His research determined that tilapia fed the processed food scraps grew at a slightly slower rate than fish on commercial feed. While these initial results might discourage developing this approach at full-scale commercial production in the United States, it is encouraging that  the approach could be used in where operating costs are lower (e.g. warm climates, developing countries) and access to fresh fish is limited.

Chair Ted Endreny asked me to write an occasional piece for the departmental website. I’m pleased at the opportunity as this will allow me to keep in touch with the program and the many students and friends I’ve known over the years.

Some of you may remember that I’m fascinated by fluid flow on extraterrestrial  bodies, e.g., water on Mars and liquid methane on Titan. I have therefore followed with great interest the exploits of the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. I watched the launch on the web on November 26, 2011 and waited anxiously during the complex landing sequence in the early morning hours of August 6, 2012. I have been following the mission at the NASA website. I was especially intrigued by some early images that appeared to show an ancient fluvial channel (see the images). Other missions, especially the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found evidence of recent, short duration pulses of water flow emanating from crater rims (see for example).

Curiosity Rover searches for rivers on Mars and garners the pride of former ERE Chair Jim Hassett.

Curiosity Rover searches for rivers on Mars and garners the pride of former ERE Chair Jim Hassett.

I was always impressed by the robust combination of skills (fluid mechanics, mapping sciences, image processing) our ERE students used in the class projects we worked on, in both the terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments. It was a combination of skills that made our engineering program unique.

Evidence of an ancient river - the rocks are now part of a conglomerate but their rounded edges suggest they had tumbled along a river bed.

Evidence of an ancient river – the rocks are now part of a conglomerate but their rounded edges suggest they had tumbled along a river bed.

As you surely know, I’m retired now, living the good life. I’m curious (and I speak for Chair Ted Endreny and the other faculty members as well) as to how you’re doing. Send an email with news; my email address hasn’t changed. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

On December 10 Dr. Laura Toran of Temple University presented to the ESF community novel methods for monitoring river restoration. The challenge in river restoration is seeing below the riverbed and monitoring how restoration influences the exchange of river water with groundwater. Ecosystem health relies on this exchange, and scientists have given the name ‘hyporheic zone’ to the ecotone below the riverbed where the mixing is most pronounced.  Dr. Toran uses a geophysical monitoring technique called electrical resistivity tomography to see below sand and gravel along the riverbed-water interface and measure how much surface water is mixing in the hyporheic zone. The technique works when a low resistivity solute, such as salt, is injected in the river and electrical resistivity probes are inserted into or on-top of the river bed. Before the solute is injected the probes take a reading of the riverbed resistivity, which is considered background. After the solute is injected the probes measure resistivity at 10 to 15 min cycles, depending on the probe cable length and number of probes, and departure from background is noted. Additional work is required to invert the signal and create an image of the below riverbed porous media. What Dr. Toran discovered was river restoration structures such as j-hooks used in Natural Channel Design (NCD) create areas upstream of the j-hook where river water lingers longer in the hyporheic zone.  A j-hook structure on Onondaga Creek south of Syracuse, NY is shown below.


We worked with Dr. Adam Ward of University of Iowa using a similar electrical resistivity technique to examine hyporheic exchange around a cross-vane, a NCD river structure similar to the j-hook.  ESF student Jesse Robinson, SU student Maggie Zimmer, Dr. Ward’s students, and I were able to use Dr. Ward’s innovative tools to compare how river water mixing with groundwater at a cross-vane is to the mixing at a riffle, which helps restoration engineers improve their cross-vane designs when their goal is to better mimic riffles.

Background image of river cross-sections, noting 0% departure in color bar. Top image is at the cross-vane, middle image is at the natural riffle, and bottom image is the time-series of the salt solute breakthrough curve.

Background image of river cross-sections, noting 0% departure in color bar. Top image is at the cross-vane, middle image is at the natural riffle, and bottom image is the time-series of the salt solute breakthrough curve.

Lower resistivity at the cross-sections when the salt solute has now mixed into the hyporheic zone. These images are of the riverbed, and show the larger extent of mixing in the cross-vane as compared with the natural riffle.

Lower resistivity at the cross-sections when the salt solute has now mixed into the hyporheic zone. These images are of the riverbed, and show the larger extent of mixing in the cross-vane as compared with the natural riffle.

Settle in to comfortable zone and enjoy this news update on your Department of Environmental Resources Engineering 2011-2012 academic year. As you know, two of the major events of an academic year involve the late August ritual of replenishing our student talent (i.e., helping freshman assimilate) and the early May ritual of releasing talented graduates (i.e., placing freshly minted alumni into jobs and graduate school). First, in late August of 2011 ERE matriculated 32 new freshman, 7 transfer, and 10 new graduate students who proceeded to light up our classrooms. Later, in early May 2012 ERE graduated 25 senior undergraduate and 11 MPS, MS and PhD graduate students who cast a long shadow. Yet there is so much more to report than this dynamic mass balance of entering and departing students and I have the privilege of highlighting a year’s worth of exciting activity.

ERE seniors in April 2012 at the Planning and Design Capstone.

Our ERE family of students, faculty, and staff in fall 2011.

Here is a roll call of undergraduate student facts to make you proud. Thirteen ERE students were in the upper division ESF Honors Program and read an extra allotment of thick books and conducted an additional battery of difficult experiments: Elliot Alexander, Daniel Dohman, Colby Fisher, Owen Hunter, Eugene Law, Devin McBride, Michael Miles, Tyler Nowak, Djibrilla Rapant, Jonathan Rice, Peter Riggs, Rachael Weiter, and Mallory Wright. Eleven ERE students formally served as tutors and made the impenetrable courses into accessible nuggets of wisdom: Elliot Alexander, Amanda Barnett, Peter Connell, James Garvey Dooley, Nicholas Haas, Kimberly Hayden, Danielle Kaveney, Eugene Law, Michael Miles, Leanna Mulvihill, and Alexandra Williams. Eight ERE students were active in our undergraduate student government: Mark Bailey, Peter Connell, Aaron Fischer, Eugene Law, Mark Nowak, Erin Jackson, Danielle Kaveney, and Lydia Krembs. Six ERE students were ESF Orientation Leaders and helped assimilate new freshman into the complex ESF culture: Amanda Barnett, James Garvey Dooley, Anna Flores, Kevin Hennigan, Eugene Law, and Michael Miles. Four ERE students served as Student Ambassadors and lead tours for high school students considering ESF for college: Peter Connell, Aaron Fischer, Jonathan Rice, and Nicholas Haas. Our Engineers without Borders chapter celebrated the completion of the community water supply project in Buena Vista Honduras was adeptly guided by the following ERE student officers: Elliot Alexander, Amanda Barnett, Tom Decker, James Garvey Dooley and Lydia Krembs. Our ERE Club, formerly the FEG club, has perpetually provided departmental enrichment by coordinating the freshman orientation camping trip, campus wide games, and a set of alumni talks was wisely governed by the following ERE student officers: Andrew Aderman, Colby Fisher, Anna Flores, Danielle Kaveney, Owen Hunter, and Michael Miles. Our ERE Scholarship winners who demonstrated an inspirational balance of academics and service for the 2011-2012 academic year are Danielle Kaveney and Tom Decker – each receiving $300 from faculty and alumni donations to offset college costs.

Students celebrate their construction of a ram pump and UV water purifier in the Baker 106 lab.

In addition to the above roll call, here is a sampling of student biographies illustrating the range and focus of ERE undergraduate student activity. Freshman Cambria Ziemer was a standout runner and led the Mighty Oaks Women’s Cross Country team, assisted ERE Secretary Teri Frese in managing the office, and raced her way through a sophomore level course. Freshman Tom Decker served as the first student representative to the ERE Advisory Council, organized two weekend workshops training students to build hydro and solar powered water delivery systems with ram pumps, sand filters, and UV purifiers, and he also helped design and lead a new and very popular ERE course entitled, Appropriate Technology for Developing Countries. Sophomore Elliot Alexander cultivated the fine arts and was an active member of the SU Ballroom Dancing Club and SU Obscure Cinema Society. Junior Kimberly Junkins was a Girl Scout Leader, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer, SU Protestant Campus Ministry Peer Leader, Resident Hall Advisor, SU Women’s Choir singer, and a SU Triathlon Team and Cycling Team member. Junior Jennifer Nechamen was a club officer with the ESF Primitive Pursuits and a member of the SU Marching and Pep Band. Junior Eugene Law was the ESF Voting Delegate for the SUNY Student Assembly, student representative on the ESF College Foundation Board of Directors, member of the ESF Alumni Association Board (did you see Eugene at your last meeting!?), member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Council, and the President of the Undergraduate Student Association (yeah, the USA!). Senior Matt Deluca volunteered at the Syracuse Museum of Science and Technology and back at ESF he used his training in plumbing to build much of the experimental equipment used to teach Fluid Mechanics. Senior Leanna Mulvilhill was principal organizer of the inaugural SUNY ESF Farmhack with the National Young Farmers’ Association, weekly Environmental Columnist with the SU Daily Orange newspaper, and President of the SU Swing Club. Senior Rachael Weiter was a member in the ERE and EWB clubs, member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Council, member of NYWEA, and a leader in SUNY ESF Trout Bums. Senior Nicholas Haas was an SU Swim Club member, a campus Ambassador, an Argonne National Labs Undergraduate Research Fellow, and President of Pride Union. Senior Tyler Nowak coded up the SUNY ESF websites to present real-time campus weather in Syracuse ( and the ADK (check out the webcam on Goodnow Mtn) and also collected and processed water quality samples for the world renowned Mitchell Biogeochemistry Lab at ESF. And to cap it all – ERE senior Colby Fisher was NYWEA Student Chapter leader, member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Council, member of Alpha Phi Omega and Alpha Xi Sigma, recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, and winner of a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship to earn his PhD at Princeton University.

Students analyze how river restoration structures influence water surface profiles – they are training to lead in sustainable engineering.

Our ERE faculty were turning heads with their award winning teaching, research, and outreach, and you may want to plan an ERE visit to catch this excitement. Assistant Professor Steve Shaw was the recipient of a Water Resources Institute research award of $60,000 and a SUNY ESF seed grant award of $6,000 to support new ways to reduce flood risk with climate change. Dr. Shaw also inaugurated the teaching of Fluid Mechanics, with a lab (!), at ESF in the fall 2011 semester, and in the spring 2012 semester he offered a new class entitled Hydrology in a Changing Climate. This class strives to give students the background to critically assess climate model-based predictions of future regional changes in hydrology and to devise adaptation plans to deal with such changes. Associate Professor Doug Daley was awarded several hundred thousand dollars this year for his work on greening urban systems – one project is the Gateway Building green roof and the other is the Solvay wastebed evaporative cover. Daley was also interviewed by WCNY for this work and its impact on cleaning Onondaga Lake – see this in Episode 112.

In Daley’s spring 2012 ERE 489 Engineering Planning and Design capstone course alumni and local firms were involved in project development and student mentoring, and all former ERE chairs (Drs. Tully, Brock, Hassett, and Kroll!) were in the audience during the capstone to assess student work. ERE alumni guided student designs, provided technical expertise and shared management experience on the following projects:  Land Cover and Wetland System on a Former Manufactured Gas Plant Site, Utica, NY; Master Plan and Analysis for the Revitalization of the Scajaquada Creek Corridor, Erie County, NY; Design and Sustainability Analysis of a Combined Sewer Overflow Disinfection System, Oswego, NY; Design and Analysis of the Urban Forest to Improve Ecosystem Services, Syracuse, NY; and Design and Feasibility Assessment of Wastewater Sludge and Landfill Gas Management System, Auburn, NY. Special thanks is extended from the ERE students and faculty to our alumni who volunteered time and expertise, including: Dave Gerber, John Camp, Meghan Myles Platt, Brian Platt, Wendi Richards, Seth Jensen, Eric Haslam, John LaGorga, Cristina Albunio, Kris Dimmick, Dan Liwicki and Lowell McBurney. If you are interested in sponsoring or guiding a student-driven design project in the spring 2013 semester, contact the Doug Daley (’82) at

Faculty, staff, and family members exercising their creative edge at the Spring Awards Banquet.

Faculty triumphs continue: Assistant Professor Giorgos Mountrakis taught our juniors Surveying for Engineers this fall 2011 and mentored a postdoctoral researcher as part of a $800,000 NASA multi-investigator grant on using LIDAR to assess roles of climate and land use change on drivers of biodiversity. Dr. Mountrakis was also the invited keynote speaker at the 32nd Symposium of the European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories. Dr. Wendong Tao and ERE graduate students Fred Agyeman, Lee Martin, and Doug Mayer (’10) won $90,000 this April on the National Mall in the EPA People Prosperity Planet (P3) 8th Sustainable Design Expo competition. They designed a low cost method to turn waste into resource by converting liquid phosphorus and nitrogen in dairy manure into crystallized fertilizers for agriculture. Dr. Stew Diemont organized and convened the 12th annual American Ecological Engineering Society conference at SUNY ESF this June, getting participants from several major US universities (VTech, NCSU, Clemson, Ohio State, U of Illinois, Michigan Tech, etc.) to enjoy demonstration tours, lectures, and Syracuse amenities such as Dinosaur BBQ and Alto Cinco meals. Dr. Diemont was also recently awarded a $100,000 National Science Foundation award for his research on agroforestry methods to reforest the connective corridor from Mexico through Central America. Dr. Jungho Im and his ERE graduate student Zhenyu Lu won the ERDAS Award for Best Scientific Paper in Remote Sensing at the ASPRS 2012 conference. Their work advances methods to detect land cover change in forested and other landscapes. Dr. Lindi Quackenbush is our ERE Assessment Coordinator and has dedicated much of her year to leading ERE’s report generation and preparation for the fall 2012 ABET site visit. Dr. Quackenbush was a co-investigator on Dr. Diemont’s NSF award and will provide spatial analysis and mapping support on that project. Staff member Mark Storrings has been managing our computing resources and lab spaces and among other roles he has been deploying software on our new Linux cluster. Staff member Paul Szemkow has been helping manage our Baker ecological engineering laboratory and hydrology / hydraulics lab spaces as well as capturing and broadcasting student learning and research in hallway posters. Our secretary Teri Frese has spent the year training me as ERE chair as well as coordinated our fall Employer Information Day, ERE Advisory Council meeting, our student FE exam registration, and a host of spring events including the perennial Planning and Design and Graduation celebrations.

Dr. Chuck Kroll stepped down as ERE chair in September 2011 and has since dedicated his professional time to mentoring me in my chair duties as well as increased teaching and research. Dr. Kroll was awarded a $250,000 USDA National Urban Community Forestry Advisory Council grant to develop a new iTree Landscape model that helps citizens design forestry based mitigation and adaptation strategies to climate change. The model will address urban air pollution, water pollution, and heat island problems and the Canopy, Design, and Hydro components of iTree are available at

As Chair I have been excited to serve as advocate for our students, staff, and faculty as they set ambitious goals and we find the resources to help them reach those goals. My service as chair has been informed by advice from our former ERE chairs and advice from our ERE Advisory Council, on which we have several alumni: Dave Gerber as Chair, Kris Dimmick, Peter Gabrielsen, John LaGorga, Patricia Pastella, Meghan Platt, John Thornet, and Scott Wheeler – these individuals and other AC members have guided and mentored me. Some of my highlights for this academic year include participating in the 1911-2011 Centennial year with thoughtful retrospections and motivating celebrations, initiating the ERE student composite so we now have a class photo hanging in our hallway, gathering with students, faculty, and staff at an ERE picnic and 3 separate formal affairs (including the gala Engineers with Appetites fund raiser), graduating 1 PhD student and 2 MS students who completed research on ecosystem based river restoration, securing $230,000 in USDA Forest Service funding for enhancing spatial simulation of iTree Hydro to help in urban watershed restoration, teaching 40 self-motivated undergraduates in the new ERE course Appropriate Technologies for Developing Countries, and reaching out to you, our alumni, during the November celebration of ERE’s 40th anniversary. To learn more about our activities please visit us online – there you will find our blog post and other social media outlets where you can watch us thrive!

ERE students and faculty point to the high peaks we have climbed and those we are engineering.

We are celebrating our very own Nick Haas’ receipt of the prestigious national competition by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) called the Outstanding Student Paper Award! Nick’s participation in the AGU competition was sponsored by Argonne National Lab and his supervisor Ben O’Connor in the Ecological and Hydrologic Modeling Team. Nick was researching how discharge at hydropower plants affects downstream river health as part of ANL Watershed and Hydropower Assessment. Nick began this research as a participant in the Educational Programs provided by ANL.

ERE Student Nick Haas by his award winning poster at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco, CA.

The AGU awards are given to recognize student excellence in geoscience research and presentation (Nick differentiated himself in this category by engaging his audience with a brilliant presentation) at the AGU National meetings.  Poster presentations are judged based on timing, clarity of expression, effective use of illustrations, organization, and logic.  Nick was one of 30 winners chosen out of 800 student presentations in the Hydrology section at the 2011 AGU Fall meeting.

Read the citation in AGU’s EOS newsletter which is online for AGU members. The award is within AGU’s Hydrology Section.