Alice Jones Receives Barfield Award for Water Resources Research
Dr. Alice Jones, director of the Eastern Kentucky Environmental Research Institute (EK-ERI) at EKU, has received the 2010 Bill Barfield Award for Outstanding Contributions in Water Resources Research from the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Kentucky.
The Barfield Award was established in 2005 to honor the Commonwealth's foremost researchers in water-related fields. The awards ceremony took place at the Annual KWRRI Symposium in Lexington March 22.
Earlier this year, Jones was named the Commonwealth’s Office of Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) “Young Investigator.” In that role, she traveled to Washington, D.C, in early March to visit Kentucky's congressional delegates and update them on achievements at the EK-ERI, and also attend the National EPSCoR Coalition Meeting.
Jones founded the EK-ERI in 2005 with start-up funds from Kentucky’s National Science Foundation-EPSCoR program, where she coordinates the Institute’s interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research and outreach approach to understanding eastern Kentucky’s ecosystems.
Her 17 years of teaching, research, and applied community service has centered on the relationship between land use and water quality, and particularly the relationship of water quality and community health. Her most recent work has focused on both large- and small-scale watershed studies of water quality in the coal country of Appalachian Kentucky.
Since 2006, Jones has spearheaded and supervised the “Big Dip” community-based sampling project in Eastern Kentucky — a diagnostic sampling of DO, pH, conductivity, iron, and household contaminants from more than 1,700 first-order headwater streams in eastern Kentucky. The project, believed to be the largest and most geographically intensive diagnostic sampling database of water quality in eastern Kentucky headwater streams, has highlighted the pervasive high conductivity levels throughout the region, with more than 58 percent of the samples above habitat impairment levels, and more than a quarter (26.7 percent) above the level associated with severe habitat loss.
In the Summer of 2009, she and co-project investigator James Fox launched the field-based “Research Experience for Undergraduates on Carbon Storage and Appalachian Headwater Health” program funded by the National Science Foundation. The 10-week intensive “research boot camp” takes 8-10 undergraduates from a nationally competitive multidisciplinary pool into eastern Kentucky to study carbon storage and watershed health affected by mining, reclamation, forestry, and other land uses.
Jones has served as a science advisor/consultant and frequently sought speaker for numerous local community watershed groups and elected officials throughout Kentucky, and provided expert testimony for the proposed “Stream Saver” bill introduced into the Kentucky General Assembly in 2008.
She also serves as an area coordinator and water sampling trainer for the citizen-based Kentucky River Watershed Watch, a science advisor for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, VISTA supervisor for the nonprofit Head of Three Rivers in Letcher County, KY, and on the board of the seven-state Eastern Coal Regional Roundtable.
In nominating Jones for the “Young Investigator” honor, Dr. Tom Otieno, Associate Dean of EKU’s College of Arts & Sciences, said: “Dr. Jones and her success with the Institute is an excellent example of the impact that an EPSCoR award can have not only on individual faculty, but on an institution. Since being awarded the modest $800K NSF-EPSCoR grant that funded the startup Institute in July of 2005, more than 40 funded projects totaling $2.46 million has been obtained in follow-on funding from federal state, and other sources, making the ERI one of the most prolific and successful funding units at EKU. But even more significantly, these projects have involved 22 faculty from nine different disciplines, collaborations with two state agencies and four Kentucky universities, and the training and mentoring of more than 65 undergraduate and graduate students — a testimony to the far-reaching impact that the EPSCoR award has had not just on one faculty member, but on the institution as a whole.
“Dr. Jones has been successful in integrating her teaching, research and service around the themes of watershed management, environmental protection and community planning to conduct needed applied research in southern and eastern Kentucky and also provide hands-on and place-based applied research and experiential projects both in the classroom and through her leadership as the Institute director,” Otieno added. “If EPSCoR wants an advocate on Capitol Hill who will leave an impression on every politician and congressional aide she meets, you would be hard pressed to find someone better than Dr. Jones. She is well known on campus for her almost infectious energy and passion for her work, and her ability to communicate that passion to everyone.”
Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in environmental geography from Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State), and a doctoral degree in City and Regional Planning from The Ohio State University. She joined the EKU faculty in 1997.