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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

EES Professor Christa Kelleher Wins SU’s First Francis A. Kohout Award for Outstanding Achievement

The award honors early-career scientists for outstanding achievements in the hydrogeologic profession.

Nov. 2, 2020, by Dan Bernardi

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Christa Kelleher is the recipient of the Francis A. Kohout Award.

Christa Kelleher, assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is the recipient of the Francis A. Kohout Early Career Award by the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America. Endowed by the estate of Francis Kohout, an early pioneer in the study of geothermally driven circulation of sea water, it honors early-career scientists for outstanding achievements in the hydrogeologic profession through original research and service. This marks the first time a professor from Syracuse University has won the award, presented each year to one scientist in the United States. Kelleher was recognized at a virtual presentation on October 29.

As a hydrologist, Kelleher studies the movement, distribution and management of water on Earth. Through computational modeling and field observation, she has published research on stream temperature, transport, flood forecasting, land-atmosphere exchange and urban hydrology. The award acknowledges Kelleher’s contribution to the field of hydrology along with her expertise in the application of drones to remotely sense environmental variables such as turbidity, water temperature, and water morphology, which is the movement and shape of streams and rivers caused by rain, floods and sediment transport.

One of Kelleher’s current projects, funded by the National Science Foundation, looks at how artificial beaver dams (BDAs) affect the storage and flux of water along stream corridors. With so little known about the long-term effects of BDAs, this study by Kelleher and collaborator Philippe Vidon, professor in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, will provide much-needed context for how human interactions are affecting western U.S. watersheds.

Kelleher’s former colleague Adam S. Ward, associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, says, “Kelleher is the model of success for an early-career scientist, her approach seamlessly links empirical, computational, and data-driven research. When my students ask me to identify role models, Kelleher is first on my list. I can think of no one more deserving of the Francis A. Kohout Early Career Award.”

Kelleher received a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and an M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. She has been a faculty member in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Syracuse since 2016. Other awards and honors include: Syracuse University’s Outstanding Teaching Award (2019), Syracuse Center of Excellence Faculty Fellow (2017-2019) and the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc.’s Instrumentation Travel Discovery Grant.

The Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America was founded in 1959 and brings together scientists to promote research and the publication of results in hydrogeology.