Edward Kolodziej, Ph.D.

Water. Life. They are one and the same; without water, there is no life. A century ago, a dryland farmer on the Great Plains would have understood that analogy perfectly, it's truth would be evident and undeniable. Today, that connection is harder to see, development and modern technologies have clouded our ability to observe as carefully. However, the analogy is still just as true now as then; we, along with every other organism on earth, need clean, fresh water every day to sustain our existence and quality of life. What's more, clean water is scarce and becoming scarcer. Population growth and development often result in the contamination and pollution of our water supplies, which limits our water supply and decreases its water quality. Therefore, to maintain our current quality of life and to preserve the integrity of the ecosystem that we are a part of, we need to insure that we have adequate, high quality water supplies.

The Challenges

Despite the successes, there remain several areas where our paradigms and treatment technologies fail to protect or maintain desirable water quality. Most of the treatment technologies in use today would be recognizable by our grandparents, and yet the world has changed significantly, so "doing things the way they have always been done" is no longer an appropriate strategy. For example, many water quality issues in the United States today are related to non-point contaminant sources. In contrast to point sources, it is likely that current "concrete box" treatment technologies will not prove to be appropriate strategies for the control of diffuse contaminant sources. Therefore, we need to develop and optimize "softer" control strategies such as engineered treatment wetlands, riparian buffer strips, or aquifer recharge and recovery systems that protect water quality, recycle wastewater and stormwater, and provide habitat.

Another important issue is the problem of bioactive contaminants and related sublethal effects in humans and aquatic organisms. By and large, we know how to control gross pollution problems that cause mortality or cancer in aquatic organisms. Recent discoveries indicate that sublethal effects may be equally important: What happens when we alter growth, survival, and reproduction in aquatic organisms (or even humans) without killing them outright or giving them cancer? Scientists have observed that anthropogenic contaminants cause drastic changes to growth, survival, fitness, and fecundity in affected organisms. Over time, these changes can even decrease the populations of aquatic organisms, we kill nothing outright, but our actions contribute to long slow slides toward extinction. How can we predict or control these problems? In my research group, I hope to find these answers.

Graduate Student and Post-Doctoral Opportunities

Here at UNR, I am always looking for well-qualified students with an interest in water quality. We have a small, but strong and growing, environmental engineering department here at UNR, and we collaborate with many highly respected programs at UNR, the Desert Research Institute, and many other research institutions in the U.S. I have numerous projects in various stages of development, so if you are interested in graduate education or career development at UNR, please send me a statement of interest, a CV, and an unofficial transcript.

Reno, Nevada

Most people think of Reno as an epicenter of gambling, picturesque lounge lizards, Burning Man, and competition bowling (think Kingpin). While it is some of that, most people don't realize that the Reno-Tahoe region is a pretty epic place to live if you like outdoor activities. You will have no problem banging out a few runs on the ski hill or down the whitewater course before work, working a full and productive day, and finishing your evening with a few pitches of rock climbing, or a few miles of fire trail on your mountain bike, or an hour or two of dry fly fishing to rising trout. And that's just on your weekdays. All that and more, Reno has a strong university and is a great location for finding your life-work balance, take a look at it and explore around. You might be pleasantly surprised!