Prof. to lead watershed study

With a National Science Foundation grant awarded to professor Peter Raymond, the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will be able to dramatically expand watershed science research during the next five years, FES Dean Gustave Speth said Thursday.

Raymond studies the carbon biogeochemistry of streams, rivers and estuaries and how stream carbon export varies with changes in land use and climate. The NSF Faculty Early Career Development grant of $580,000 is awarded to young, non-tenured scientists in a wide range of fields and was awarded to Raymond on the basis of his work in biogeochemistry, Speth said.

“This is an extraordinary recognition of Pete’s work,” Speth said. “This type of support is very rare and very difficult [to obtain]. It really means that he is being recognized in an extraordinary way. We are extremely pleased.”

Raymond said he believes that his research, which involves examining 70-80 years of U.S. water quality data, will be greatly enhanced with the funding because of the study’s large scope.

“The program requires vision for research and an educational plan that can be improved with a vast infusion of money,” Raymond said.

Raymond’s proposal to investigate the transport of carbon between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems was judged on both its scientific merit and on the broader impacts of the science for society, said NSF Ecosystems Study Program director Henry Gholz, whose department is funding the grant.

“We are interested in carbon and carbon dioxide, and in this case, the movement laterally across the landscape from the rocks moving out into the steams,” Gholz said. “It’s a novel approach, especially for somebody early in his career to take on.”

Unlike most other grants, the funding awarded to Raymond is only available to scientists in the early stages of their careers. According to award criteria, recipients must show both past successes and future promise.

“I think this grant is recognition of professor Raymond’s high quality of both his past work and his prospects of future work in the field, both in research and in teaching,” FES Deputy Dean Alan Brewster said.

The NSF grant is also intended to integrate teaching into the scientific proposal, in this case augmenting watershed science research and education, which is an evolving program at the Environment School.

“The whole area of watershed and coastal area science is a priority for us,” Speth said. “We have a very substantial program, and with this support, it will continue to grow.”

The grant will support Raymond in using his research to educate both students — through a developing Yale course — and the general public.

“I am hoping to bring a new course online in two years and a series of workshops with a marine educator, who will educate the public on biogeochemical issues,” Raymond said.

Raymond’s outreach will also include an interactive Web site that he said is intended both to educate the general public and to streamline access to aquatic biogeochemical data for other researchers.

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