May 12, 2008
Kelly S. Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Ohio University was named the American Electric Power Watershed Research and Reclamation Professorship (AEP professorship) on January 4, 2008. The second individual to fill this prestigious professorship, following the late Mary Stoertz, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geological Sciences, Johnson was chosen based on her dedication as an educator as well as her collaborative research within the Appalachian Watershed Research Group (AWRG).
The AEP professorship is a position within the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs that is awarded to individuals who have a history of encouraging a new level of scholarly activity and real-world problem solving related to watershed restoration in the southeast Ohio region. Through the
Voinovich School and the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3), the AEP professor works with watershed groups and state and federal agencies to provide research and training in the assessment and restoration of southeast Ohio watersheds.
Johnson is one of several Ohio University researchers and Voinovich School staff who work with the Appalachian Watershed Research Group (AWRG) on interdisciplinary, high-quality, applications-based watershed research for the benefit of the region. Johnson's specific research seeks to understand the role that insects play in watershed health. According to Mark Weinberg, Voinovich
School Director, Johnson was chosen because her "dedication to research excellence, student education, and service to the communities of Southeastern Ohio has made a substantial impact on the nature of the research being undertaken at the Voinovich School."
As AEP professor, Johnson is expected to expand upon current relationships with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA to evaluate the success of watershed reclamation practices. She is also encouraged to continue building the AWRG and provide undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to be involved through applied research and coursework — one of Johnson's top priorities.
"Students bring fresh ideas and energy to existing projects," Johnson explained, "and leave with the kinds of hands-on skills that you don't get from a textbook or lecture hall."
Another of Johnson's goals is to promote collaborative efforts with researchers outside the region. While Ohio University's talent pool is wonderful, she believes there are research projects which could benefit from additional expertise. The effect would be to enhance ARWG's reputation related to watershed research.
Johnson's current research includes participation with other Ohio University faculty on an interdisciplinary U.S. EPA STAR project. This project aims to develop a better stream classification system and a refined system for understanding stream health in the Western Allegheny Plateau — the region in which Athens is located. Johnson also works closely with Voinovich Center staff partnering
agencies in the long-term monitoring of four watersheds in southeast Ohio. Primary objectives of her work are to examine patterns of species loss where there has been stress from mining and assessing the impact of the loss of diversity on important ecosystem processes.
Through these projects, Johnson hopes to provide reliable data on environmental costs related to extraction, including mining, and use of natural resources in the region as well as provide an objective evaluation of the impact of different regulatory actions. This information can be useful in developing new policies that will help make informed decisions about mining and mining reclamation in the future.