Zachary M. Easton, PhD – Associate Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering CV

profile_pic2My research addresses both native and managed systems, considers processes at plot- to large river basin-scales, and is relatively evenly divided among field study/monitoring, modeling, and application of results to real world problems. Current projects focus on several areas, such as: 1) How do land use and climate (change) impact water quality? Work here focuses on characterization of the relationships between land use distributions, climate and patterns of nutrient and water flows in the landscape. 2) How do agricultural and urban management practices affect water quality? This work integrated plot and field scale research with basin scale modeling to assess the impact of best management practices on water quantity and quality. One of the roles has been to develop and test basin scale hydrologic models designed to provide accurate estimates of both water quality and quantity. 3) What processes control the fate and transport of nutrients and sediment? Recent work has focused on assessing influence of anaerobic conditions on denitrification in a denitrifying bioreactor designed to treat diffuse ground water nitrate.  4) Developing data access and sharing protocols that facilitate seamless and  transparent data transfer between disparate data source. We develop tools and code that provide researchers from multiple domains with the data they need to complete their research. 5) Can we bridge basic research and modeling to management and application? For instance, results from past research efforts are currently being used to drive policy decisions on nutrient management in both agricultural and urban systems.

Dan Fuka, PhD – Post Doctoral Researcher – Department of Biological Systems Engineering CV

DanFukaI am a research scientist and engineer with professional experience in complex problem solving and high performance computing. I recently transitioned from the commercial Research & Development world into academia, earning a Ph.D. in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University. My doctoral work focused on different aspects of hydrological modeling, including ways of incorporating more process-based approaches into existing agricultural management models. My previous commercial research and development activities involved, among other things, weather forecasting, primarily for energy companies in the throughout United States.

Graduate Students

Emily Bock – PhD Candidate in Biological Systems Engineering

EmilyLassiterMy interests are oriented by a desire to improve management of our water resources by harnessing the ecological function of natural systems. Current research examines the use of a denitrifying bioreactors to reduce nitrate export from cropland. Specifically, I am investigating the factors controlling the proportion of complete denitrification to dinitrogen, versus incomplete denitrification to nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. This research will inform the potential use of DNBRs as agricultural best management practices in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Secondary research objectives include determining the proportion of nitrate removal attributable to denitrification, assessing the spatial and temporal variation in the composition of denitrification products (N2:N2O), and gas analysis of the byproducts of denitrifying bioreactor systems. I enjoy the outdoors and getting my hands dirty.

Elyce Buell – MS/PhD student in Biological Systems Engineering



Andrew Sommerlot – PhD candidate in Biological Systems Engineering (Research Scientist University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

IMAG0320-1024x612My interests include developing tools for agricultural and environmental science on web and mobile platforms to enable real time management to protect water quality.  I have a passion for Linux and R and program in my free time. As you can see from my picture I also enjoy sailing, of which there is none in Blacksburg, alas I had to sell my boat….

Moges Wagena – PhD candidate in Biological Systems Engineering

Slide1My research interest includes modeling climate change, water resources and water quality. My current research focuses on modeling the effect of climate change on hydrology and water quality at field and watershed scale using SWAT-VSA. I am also developing tools that will enable us to quantify Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in agroecosystems

Brady Coleman – MS Student in Biological Systems Engineering

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Justin Haber – Undergraduate in Biological Systems Engineering

I am currently a senior majoring in Biological Systems Engineering and perusing minors in Green Engineering and Environmental Science. My work focuses on understanding how local soil conditions affect the processes within Denitrifying Bioreactors. By understanding the ecological interactions of these remediation systems, I hope we can develop mitigation strategies which lie in harmony with the surrounding ecosystems. My ultimate career goal is work in environmental preservation through sustainable agriculture technology. Outside of research, my interests include hiking, soccer, and community service.

Casey Shrading – Undergraduate in Biological Systems Engineering

Colby Dechiara – Undergraduate in Biological Systems Engineering


Nick Smith, 2013 – Calculus Professor College of William and Mary

Emily Bock, 2014 – PhD Candidate Dept. Biological Systems Engineering, VT

James Wade, 2015 – Straughan Environmental

Martin Davis, 2016 -MyAgro, Senegal

Russell Umstead, 2016 – Afton Scientific

Hydrology, Water Quality, and Watershed Systems Research