Elizabeth W. Boyer

Elizabeth W. Boyer

Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science & Management
Co-hire, Institutes of Energy & the Environment
Penn State University
304 Forest Resources Building (office)
112 Research A Building (lab)

University Park, PA 16802

Education: B.S. Geography, with a minor in Science, Technology, & Society, Penn State University | M.S. & Ph.D., Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia | Post-doc, Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

Interests: hydrological processes, environmental sciences, geoinformatics, science-technology-society interactions, interdisciplinary research, research development

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Research: Water-related stresses such as flooding, droughts, and water quality impairments pose significant environmental concerns for society. My research explores coupled hydrological, biological, and geochemical processes that control water quality of precipitation, groundwater, and surface waters — considering the combined influences of natural and human factors. Additionally, I explore the use of ecosystem properties and nature-based solutions as effective watershed management tools. I am currently a co-PI of the national coordinating hub for the NSF-funded critical zone collaborative network, which facilitates collaboration, data sharing, and interdisciplinary research to understand complex landscapes and address environmental challenges. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of my research, I have worked with >500 collaborators from around the world on my publications. Such work provides a scientific basis for policies and management strategies to mitigate the effects of pollution and to protect, conserve, and restore freshwater. 

Advising: I enjoy working with students toward achieving their academic and professional goals. I advise undergraduates in the Department's various majors and encourage students to participate in independent-study courses, part-time jobs, or internships to gain research experience. Water is a cross-cutting research area, and I advise graduate students in any of the department's graduate majors including Ecology, Forest Resources, Soil Science, and Wildlife & Fisheries Science. Additionally, I advise students in intercollege dual-title graduate programs in BiogeochemistryInternational Agriculture & Development, and Transdisciplinary Research on Environment and Society. My lab group's field studies primarily focus on long-term ecohydrological responses of forested watersheds, while our modeling studies are centered around water quality prediction or systems-level assessments of nutrient cycles. Student research projects typically involve some combination of field sampling, lab analyses, hydrological modeling, data synthesis, or stakeholder engagement. The graduate application process is described here.

Service: I have a longstanding commitment to facilitating interdisciplinary research and connecting scientific knowledge to policy. In administrative roles at Penn State, I served (for >10 years) as Director of the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center (one of 54 centers at land-grant universities comprising the National Institutes of Water Resources) and as an Assistant Director of Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (the central organizing structure for environmental research across the University). I participated for >15 years in various science advisory committees of the US Environmental Protection Agency, focused on the ecological effects of air pollution and sustainable water resources. I recently completed a rotation as a Program Director for the Hydrologic Sciences and Geoinformatics programs at the US National Science Foundation. I currently chair the Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and serve as an associate editor for the international journal Water Resources Research.

Honors: Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science | Paul A. Witherspoon Award, American Geophysical Union, for innovative interdisciplinary research in the hydrologic sciences by a mid-career scientist | Alex & Jesse Black Award for excellence in research, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

Penn State Interdisciplinary Affiliations:

- Institutes of Energy and the Environment (co-hire)

- Earth and Environmental Systems Institute

- Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

- Institute for Sustainable Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Science

- Institute for Computational and Data Sciences

- Rock Ethics Institute