UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Robert Brooks, Ruby S. and E. Willard Miller Professor of Geography and Ecology and director of Riparia, was elected a Fellow of the Society of Wetland Scientists, the society’s highest honor, during a ceremony in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in June.
Brooks is a nationally recognized leader in wetland science and policy with more than 35 years of experience in education and research related to inland freshwater wetlands and riverine ecosystems.
“I am pleased and humbled to be recognized by my professional peers and friends for a career combining research, teaching and service activities,” Brooks said. “I was especially pleased that there were six students and faculty from Penn State at the awards ceremony to share in the honor.”
Brooks has taught more than a dozen undergraduate wildlife courses and graduate courses in the ecology and management of wetlands, physical geography, field geography, wildlife management, and conservation and restoration ecology. He says he strives to integrate research, teaching and outreach, and promote service endeavors, while communicating the importance of wetlands and other aquatic ecosystems to audiences of all ages.
Beginning in 1993, Brooks and his team of researchers created a network of 200 reference wetlands across Pennsylvania and established assessment protocols. These protocols became the road map many other states use in assessing wetlands and influenced the recent National Wetland Condition Assessment conducted collaboratively by the Environmental Protection Agency and the states.
“We are using these data to design and build better wetland mitigation and restoration projects, and to study ecological changes over time by resampling these wetlands every 10 years,” Brooks said.
It’s critical to understand wetlands, streams and riparian areas, Brooks said, because these systems offer ecological benefits such as floodwater storage, water quality improvement and wildlife habitat.
Brooks has published more than 125 technical papers, books and book chapters, and he has presented more than 140 technical presentations at conferences and meetings. He has been the senior principal investigator on 94 of 131 grants totaling more than $30 million.
“Whether through formal classroom teaching, laboratories and field trips, or numerous outreach events, he always finds ways to ignite the passion of his students,” said Christopher Craft, Janet Duey professor in rural land policy and director of the doctoral program in environmental science at Indiana University Bloomington. “His love and dedication to wetlands, other aquatic ecosystems, and their wildlife and biota — are noteworthy, and have not faded.”
Brooks served as chair of Pennsylvania’s DEP Wetlands Protection Advisory Committee for eight years and has advised many industries, nonprofits, schools and government agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Bureau of Mines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Wild Resources Conservation Fund.
Brooks founded Riparia as the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center in 1993, later changing the name to Riparia in the mid-2000s to reflect their expanding mission. Support is provided through grants and contracts, and by IEE, EESI and Geography. Riparia’s focus is on creating and using science to inform policy and practice on issues related to wetlands ecology, landscape hydrology and watershed management.