The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Zachary Easton, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, for his work on environmental policy and soil and water quality.
Easton’s research focuses on areas including agricultural and urban management practices and their effect on water quality, and the impact of land use and climate change on water quality. His work is divided among field study/monitoring, modeling, and the application of results to real-world problems.
One current project aims to develop a dynamic real-time decision support system that will provide information relevant to water quality protection. A unique feature of the proposed system is that it will predict runoff risks in real time and forecast risks 6 hours to 3 days into the future, displaying these forecasts as Google-map-like images on smart phones.
Easton was recently awarded two grants from the National Science Foundation to examine the effects of climate change on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. The goal of this effort is to clarify the implications of continued threats on the iconic body of water such as nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, urban sprawl, and climate change itself. Both of the grants seek to understand the ways the Chesapeake Bay could be threatened as a water and food source in the coming decades by climate change.
In his work developing extension and outreach programs and materials, Easton focuses on increased environmental quality and economic viability as well as stakeholder-driven technology transfer coupled with education to identify, develop, and apply natural or engineered solutions to address various soil and water resource management concerns and environmental policy issues.
Easton earned his Ph.D. and master’s degree, both in hydrology, from Cornell University, and his bachelor’s in soil science from the University of Massachusetts.