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Snowmelt runoff fills a reservoir in the Rockies

Expert on Viewing Earth’s Hydrologic Health from Space Tops ARS Award Winners

By Don Comis
February 9, 2000

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9--Albert Rango, a U.S. Department of Agriculture hydrologist and internationally recognized expert on hydrologic remote sensing, has been named Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of 1999 by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. It is the top scientific honor given by the research agency.

Read about Rango's research in Agricultural Research magazine.

Rango is being honored today for creating the field of hydrologic remote sensing, applying it to monitor rangeland conditions, and linking it to computer models to predict water availability for electricity, drinking, irrigation, and recreation. Under a cooperative research and development agreement with the Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey, he helped develop a newer model that for the first time accounts for radiation and cloud cover as well as temperature, precipitation and snow cover in its predictions of the effects of climate change on snowmelt.

Rango and other ARS scientists will be recognized in an awards ceremony scheduled for today at the ARS Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center. Each winner will receive a plaque, a cash award and additional research funding. Rango works at the ARS Hydrology Laboratory at Beltsville.

"Albert Rango has engaged in groundbreaking research with NASA and ARS for 27 years in hydrologic remote sensing, snow hydrology, climate change and rangeland health,” ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn said. “He has been the primary leader in hydrologic remote sensing research in the world, with particular expertise in remote sensing of snow, snowmelt-runoff computer models, climate change assessment, and rangeland condition monitoring."

"Rango was the first scientist to use satellite images to analyze and map a flood, to measure snow cover depletion and relate it to subsequent snowmelt runoff, and to evaluate climate change effects," Horn said. “He was also the first scientist to use satellite microwave data to estimate snow water equivalent and depth information over large areas with applications to predictions of water yield and winterkill of wheat."

Rango has bachelor's and master's degrees in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University and a doctoral degree in watershed management from Colorado State University. He worked for NASA from 1972 until 1983, when he joined ARS.

In addition to his research activities, Rango has instituted a cooperative research program with Howard University, Washington, D.C., to improve its remote sensing capability. He has a long history of involving students in his field programs and has supervised numerous postdoctoral students and visiting scientists, including Fulbright fellows, who have made major contributions to his research program and later to their own programs.

The field of hydrologic remote sensing was created from Rango’s research at NASA using the then newly launched Landsat and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. In recognition of his eminence in the field, he has been elected by his peers to serve as president of the American Water Resources Association (1986), president and general chairman of the Western Snow Conference (1990-1992), and president of the International Commission on Remote Sensing, International Association of Hydrological Sciences (1997-2001). He also holds the highest honors in the American Water Resources Association (fellow) and the Western Snow Conference (life member). Rango has written or co-written more than 260 scientific publications.

ARS today will also honor Jerry L. Hatfield, Leon V. Kochian, and W. Joe Lewis as Outstanding Senior Research Scientists of 1999. Hatfield directs the agency's National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, Kochian leads research at the ARS-U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory in Ithaca, N.Y., and Lewis is at ARS' Insect Biology and Population Management Laboratory in Tifton, Ga.

Read article on Hatfield's research in Agricultural Research.

Hatfield is being recognized for his outstanding scientific and educational contributions to understanding the role of farming practices on water pollution. He leads a major U.S. Department of Agriculture water quality program and continues to develop research and education programs on environmental quality and agriculture across the United States. He has made significant contributions in the area of remote sensing to assess crop growth.

Read article on Kochian's research in Agricultural Research.

Kochian is being honored for his pioneering research on understanding plant species that tolerate marginal soils and using plants to restore or bio-remediate contaminated soils. His research has been used to create wheat and corn varieties that grow better on acid soils.

Read article on Lewis's research.

Lewis is being cited for advancing use of parasitoid wasps to attack caterpillar pests of corn, cotton and other crops. He has made fundamental discoveries about the chemical cues wasps use to locate their prey.

ARS is also honoring scientists who are just building their careers. Early career awards recognize the achievements of ARS researchers who have been with the agency seven years or less.

This year, the top award in this category will go to poultry physiologist Ann M. Donoghue as the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Scientist of 1999. Donoghue works at ARS' Germplasm and Gamete Physiology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. She is being honored for improving the understanding of sperm function and competition in turkeys. Her findings could help turkey farmers select sires and save millions of dollars annually.

The agency also named four Area Senior Research Scientists of 1999. They are:

Read article on vaccine in Agricultural Research.

  • Phillip H. Klesius of the ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory in Auburn, Ala. Klesius is being honored for outstanding research to improve the health of farm-raised fish, including development of a catfish vaccine. Klesius is the senior winner in the agency's Midsouth Area, which includes Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Read article on Kramer's research.

  • Karl J. Kramer of the ARS Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kan. Kramer's award is for pioneering research in insect molecular science and its application to development of insect pest control methods. Kramer is the top senior scientist for the agency's Northern Plains Area, which includes Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Read article on this research.

  • Melvin J. Oliver of the ARS Plant Stress and Germplasm Development Unit in Lubbock, Texas. Oliver is being honored for pioneering research accomplishments leading to a more complete understanding of crop tolerance to stresses such as drought. Oliver is the top senior scientist for the agency's Southern Plains Area, which includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
  • M.K. (Kay) Walker-Simmons of the ARS Wheat Quality, Physiology and Disease Research Unit, Pullman, Wash. Walker-Simmons' award is for making great strides in understanding how hormones affect the ability of wheat seed to survive adverse environmental conditions such as drought, cold and preharvest rains. Walker-Simmons is the top senior scientist for the agency's Pacific West Area, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Seven Area Early Career Scientists are being honored by ARS. They are:

  • Gillian Eggleston, Mid South Area, Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La., for curbing degradation of cane and beet sugar during processing.
  • Alan Joseph Franzleubbers, South Atlantic Area, at the J. Phil Campbell, Sr., Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville, Ga., for improving methods for measuring soil quality.

Read about the model in Agricultural Research.

  • Raymond P. Glahn, North Atlantic Area, at the U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory, Ithaca, N.Y., for developing a lab model of the human digestive system to study the bioavailability of food nutrients.

Read article on Herrick's research in AR.

  • Jeffrey E. Herrick, Southern Plains Area, Jornada Experimental Range, Las Cruces, N.M., for leading development of a rangeland "health" monitoring program and transferring technology to ranchers and other users.
  • J. Mitchell McGrath, Midwest Area, Sugarbeet and Bean Research Unit, East Lansing, Mich., for building a world-class science program to bring sugarbeet breeding and genetics into the 21st century.

Read previous article on Panella's research.

  • Leonard W. Panella, Northern Plains Area, Sugarbeet Research Unit, Fort Collins, Colo., for advancing sugarbeet germplasm and knowledge of the genetics of disease resistance.
  • Thomas C. Pearson, Pacific West Area, Western Regional Research Center, Albany, Calif., for developing a high-tech pistachio sorter capable of removing aflatoxin-contaminated nuts at production speed.

Individual news releases on each awardee are available on request to: Don Comis, ARS Information Staff, phone (301) 504-1625, fax (301) 504-1641,