Hydrologist named Gaylord Nelson Professor

March 23, 2009 By Tom Sinclair

A UW–Madison hydrologist widely known for his work in watershed protection has been named the university’s next Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor.

Kenneth Potter, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and environmental studies, will hold the honorary title for the next four years. The award includes an annual stipend for flexible research support.

Potter’s teaching, research and public service in stormwater management and aquatic systems restoration in Dane County “has been a beacon for ecologically responsible development far beyond the county’s borders,” says Nelson Institute interim director Gregg Mitman, in announcing the honor.

Mitman cited Potter’s guidance of 17 of the Nelson Institute’s annual water resources management workshops as proof of his dedication to the Wisconsin Idea, the university’s commitment to share its expertise with the people of the state. These intensive summer workshops typically unite teams of graduate students with government and nonprofit client organizations to protect and improve water quality and recreational opportunities and other public benefits in Wisconsin communities.

An enthusiastic supporter of local watershed and resource protection groups, Potter also has donated many evenings of his time to provide the best science and engineering information on stormwater management, groundwater levels and flooding potential.

At the national level, Potter is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and has served on 10 committees of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council.

The Nelson professorship is awarded by the Nelson Institute to members of its faculty for innovative thinking, research excellence and significant contributions to the institute.

“This professorship is named for one of the great champions of environmental stewardship in our state’s and nation’s history,” says Mitman. “It is an outstanding honor that demonstrates the high esteem in which the awardee is held by his or her colleagues.”

As governor of Wisconsin and a three-term U.S. senator, Gaylord Nelson left a rich legacy of achievements in conservation and environmental protection. He is best known as the founder of Earth Day, in 1970.

The Nelson Institute, established the same year as Earth Day and named for the late senator in 2002, conducts a broad range of interdisciplinary academic, research and community service programs.

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