Water resources professor receives 2021 Black Award for excellence in research

Kelly Jedrzejewski
July 08, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Elizabeth Boyer, professor of water resources in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is the 2021 recipient of the Alex and Jessie C. Black Award for excellence in research.

The award recognizes a tenure-track faculty member in the college whose significant accomplishments include exceptional and original research in the agricultural sciences conducted at Penn State. The award also includes a $5,000 cash stipend.

Boyer, an ecohydrologist, joined the University in 2008. According to Bradley Cardinale, professor and head of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, “Dr. Boyer ranks among the most successful and influential faculty at Penn State.”

Beth Boyer

Elizabeth Boyer, professor of water resources in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

IMAGE: Elizabeth Boyer

Cardinale also noted that Boyer has pioneered approaches that have become standards for identifying water quality problems, as well as novel measures to improve the health of watersheds at local to international scales. She has published more than 100 scientific articles.

Boyer is known for her incisive application of hydrology and biogeochemistry in studies of how watersheds respond to change, having led reseach at numerous experimental watershed sites across the country. She has advanced new analytical techniques, maintained long-term observations and developed simulation models to understand the impacts of land-use change, air pollution and climatic variability on water quality.

In Pennsylvania, she secured funding to observe precipitation chemistry, atmospheric deposition, and water quality at a network of sites and made these data publicly available. She is continuing her watershed work as a principal investigator of the national coordinating hub of the newly established Critical Zone Collaborative Network.

Boyer takes a systems view to explore intertwined processes that affect water resources and to inform watershed management. She long has been involved in regional and international assessments of nutrient pollution, highlighting the consequences of nutrient deficiencies or excesses for humanity and ecosystems.

Boyer was a key contributor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent national nitrogen assessment. She currently participates in an international research project of the United Nations Environment Program aimed at improving understanding of global nutrient cycles toward establishing an international nitrogen management system.

In addition to her research, Boyer says that service is in her DNA. She enjoys facilitating collaborative research, building research partnerships and serving the scientific community.

From 2008 to 2019, Boyer served as assistant director of Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment, which is the central coordinating structure for environmental research across the University. From 2008 to 2020, she also was the director of the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center, one of 54 centers at land-grant universities that constitute the National Institutes of Water Resources.

Outside of the University, Boyer served on the board of the Universities Council on Water Resources and the Consortium of Universities for Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences Inc. She also chaired the prestigious Gordon Conference on Catchment Science: Interactions of Hydrology, Biology, and Geochemistry.

For more than 15 years, Boyer was a member of various science advisory committees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She also participated on several committees of the National Academies, focused on use of science at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the effectiveness of the New York City Watershed Protection Program.

Boyer is continuing her long tradition of service in a new role at the National Science Foundation while on temporary leave from Penn State. She currently is a program director in the hydrologic sciences and geoinformatics programs. Further, she serves as an associate editor and former editor of the international journal, Hydrological Processes, and is on the editorial board of the open-access journal, Environmental Research Communications.

In 2018, Boyer was the recipient of the prestigious Paul A. Witherspoon Award from the American Geophysical Union for innovative interdisciplinary contributions in hydrologic sciences by a mid‐career scientist. In 2020, she was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her work on the scientific underpinning for water management.

The Alex and Jessie C. Black Award is a tribute to the life and career of the late Alex Black, who was a professor of animal nutrition and the associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Penn State, and his wife, the late Jessie Clements Black.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 09, 2021