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Conservation award recognizes KU researcher’s contribution to state water issues

Friday, January 31, 2020

LAWRENCE — You’d be on solid ground calling Jerry deNoyelles a champion for the environment, particularly for clean water in Kansas. Over 45 years of research, teaching and work with state agencies, he was among the first to draw serious attention to the condition of the state’s reservoirs. Today the University of Kansas professor emeritus will be honored with the Conservation Champion Award at the 2020 Kansas Natural Resource Conference in Manhattan.

DeNoyelles came to KU in 1975 as a young assistant professor. He retired as professor of ecology & evolutionary biology in May 2019. He held a joint appointment as a Kansas Biological Survey scientist and deputy director from 1986 until his retirement.

“Jerry deNoyelles has dedicated much of his career to quantifying the state of our reservoirs, which provide many services to people and wildlife in Kansas and beyond,” said Sara Baer, director of the Kansas Biological Survey. “I believe he is highly deserving of this honor.”

For more than 30 years, deNoyelles has gathered scientific data on problems with Kansas reservoirs, including sediment infill and harmful algal blooms. He has presented the information to the Legislature and other key policymakers throughout the state, including the Kansas Water Authority.

Working with the Kansas Water Office, he led development of the Kansas Biological Survey’s Reservoir Research Program, which continues to assist the state in addressing serious multi-faceted problems related to the future vitality of its reservoirs.

Working in stages over a 40-year period, deNoyelles developed the KU Field Station’s Aquatic Research Facility—now one the largest in the U.S.—to address both basic and applied research questions. The facility is made up of 100 individual research ponds and tank enclosures, as well as Cross Reservoir, constructed in 1991, the site of extensive studies related to reservoir health. At deNoyelles’s retirement, the facility was named for him.

The aquatic research facility has been used to study the effects that various chemicals—such as atrazine, endocrine-disrupting compounds, cadmium, fertilizers and other anthropogenic pollutants—could have on humans and on aquatic organisms and environments. Research conducted there has been a key factor in helping industry and government entities determine whether these potentially harmful substances are associated with human and ecological health risks.

At KU, deNoyelles developed and taught more than 20 different courses, from basics, including Principles of Environmental Studies and Field Work in Environmental Studies, to specialized courses such as Aquatic Taxonomy; Ecological Consequences of the City; and Ecosystem-level Hazard Evaluation. He taught and mentored thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, who have pursued academic paths; teaching at K-12 schools; work for municipal, state and federal agencies; and private industry.

The Kansas Biological Survey, a KU designated research center, was established at KU in 1911. It houses a variety of environmental research labs and remote sensing/GIS programs in Takeru Higuchi Hall and the West District greenhouse. It also manages the 3,700-acre KU Field Station, a site for study in the sciences, arts and humanities.

Photo: Jerry deNoyelles works with KU environmental studies students at Cross Reservoir at the KU Field Station in this 2018 file photo from KU Marketing Communications.

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