Six recognized for environmental and natural resources excellence

Several awards recognizing the achievements of faculty, extension educators, staff and students in the environmental and natural resources sciences in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences were recently announced by the Environment and Natural Resource Institute.

All award winners received a plaque and a $400 cash prize. The Outstanding Graduate Award went to Michael Castellano, a doctoral student in crop and soil sciences; Jason Kaye, assistant professor of soil and biogeochemistry, received the Early Career Award; the Career Award went to Douglas Beegle, professor of agronomy; and the Innovation Award went to Scott Isard, professor of aerobiology, and Seogchan Kang and David Geiser, both associate professors of plant pathology.

Castellano was recognized for his academic achievement, professional potential and disciplinary contribution as a graduate student. Forging innovative connections between biogeochemistry and hydrology, he has published nine peer-reviewed manuscripts and developed a reading group that resulted in a peer-reviewed publication identifying a global pattern in the spatial variability of soil solution nitrogen. He is the recipient of a graduate fellowship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Kaye was recognized for showing exceptional potential for discovery and leadership within new frontiers of knowledge in environmental and natural resources. He is developing a new model of the terrestrial nitrogen cycle that accounts for the stability of nitrogen retained in soils. This work will lead to a greater understanding of forest nitrogen retention by explicitly including both biological and abiotic processes that rapidly stabilize nitrogen in soil organic matter.

Kaye’s group also is exploring practices that may reduce nitrogen pollution in surface water and the atmosphere, and he was one of 25 scientists selected to outline a $30 million to $40 million research agenda in this area.

Recognized for his distinguished career in the environmental and natural resources field for a period of 10 or more years, Beegle began as a Penn State instructor in agronomy in 1981. Since that time, he has earned an international reputation as an outstanding extension specialist with programs in soil fertility and farm nutrient management.

A key advisor to government agencies dealing with nutrient management, in recent years he has been heavily involved in research and extension activities developing nutrient-management systems that maximize the economic return from nutrients while minimizing their environmental impact.

Geiser, Isard and Kang all were recognized for making outstanding and innovative contributions in the environmental and natural resources field. They have presented highly innovative models for integrating human capital, scientific knowledge and informational tools to enhance the understanding of global diversity and dynamics of plant pathogens and to better manage the resulting diseases.

They also have established a series of novel informational platforms that support and integrate community research, education and extension on plant pathogens and their diseases, leading to major paradigm shifts in research, education and outreach programs in plant pathology and related disciplines.

Last Updated January 09, 2015