Colorado State University Receives $2.75 Million to Train Next Generation of Water Scientists and Engineers

Note to Reporters: Photos and a chart are available with the news release at Prospective students should contact Jorge Ramirez at or (970) 491-7621.

Jorge A. Ramirez, a Colorado State University professor of civil and environmental engineering, will lead a new $2.75 million research and education program to train the next generation of water scientists. The new program is funded by NSF’s IGERT, the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary research training program.

Ramirez and his collaborators received the prestigious NSF grant to develop a new doctoral program in integrated, multidisciplinary research and education that addresses the complex hydrologic, ecologic and socio-economic challenges facing society.

“Water management decisions generate conflicts between humans, ecosystem needs and political jurisdictions,” Ramirez said. “Therefore, there is a critical need for scientists who can address three important questions: 1) how can limited fresh water be distributed equitably in a socially acceptable and sustainable framework; 2) what are the relative ecological and societal benefits and drawbacks of management actions; and 3) how can science provide answers for wise water management decisions?”

The new program is known as WATER or Water, Atmosphere, Ecosystem Education and Research. The WATER program will train doctoral students to conduct interdisciplinary research at the interfaces between hydrologic, atmospheric, ecologic and management disciplines. Students will probe questions of variability and uncertainty, vulnerability of human use and ecosystems and sustainability. The program involves 11 science and engineering departments at Colorado State University and includes opportunities for trainees to participate in internships at federal and state agencies.

The five-year grant will train as many as 30 doctoral students in civil and environmental engineering, atmospheric science and ecology on all aspects of WATER science and engineering, Ramirez said.

Other key researchers participating in the grant are Neil Grigg, also a professor of civil and environmental engineering; Scott Denning, professor of atmospheric science; and LeRoy Poff, professor of biology.

NSF’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, or IGERT, is intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline and the technical, professional and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Ramirez teaches hydrologic science and engineering and researches such issues as the impacts of climate variability on hydrologic processes, integrated vulnerability and sustainability of water supply, evapotranspiration trends and climate change, land-atmosphere interactions and ecohydrologic modeling. In addition, he is organizer of the Hydrology Days conference, a three-day international scientific meeting held annually at CSU.

Ramirez is part of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University, which is internationally renowned for its water programs. Recent examples of its success:

• In June, Jose D. Salas, a longtime Colorado State University civil and environmental engineering professor, received the 2010 Ven Te Chow Award – the highest honor awarded to a hydrologic engineer by the American Society of Civil Engineers and its specialty organization, the Environmental and Water Resources Institute.

• In 2009, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar honored Salas and his partners at three other universities with the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award for developing new operational guidelines for the Colorado River.

• In December, Colorado State University became a founding member of the first North American UNESCO water center approved by the United Nations. CSU’s International School for Water Resources in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department will serve as the host organization for the UNESCO Centre along with the Colorado Water Institute and the Department of Sociology.