Chris Lowry, UB assistant professor of geology.
We asked Chris Lowry, UB assistant professor of geology, to tell
us about his work in, and thoughts on sustainability.
What are you doing to help UB become more
My biggest contribution at UB to building a sustainable
environment is through the classes I teach. I teach both
graduate and undergraduate classes in the department of Geology
focusing on water resources. My goal is for students to
become educated stewards of our water resources. We live in a
very water rich state, however we still need to protect and manage
these resources for the benefit for all. The way I can most
easily protect our resources is by giving students the tools to
understand and solve real world problems.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you
pursue at UB?
My research focuses on groundwater dependent ecosystems, which
are basically wetland and riparian zones. I have been investigating
the controls on wetland vegetation in high elevation meadows and
the importance of groundwater during the dry summer months.
This work has a restoration component, where we are able to
simulate different restoration scenarios in order to see how to
best support specific vegetation communities. I have also
started a project where citizen scientists can make measurements of
the height of water (stage) in streams and report these values
using mobile phone text messages. These data are then
published on the web and people can monitor changes in stream
flow. By collecting these distributed measurements of stream
stage we are able to better quantify seasonal changes in the
movement of water within a watershed.
How are students involved in your sustainability
My students are conducting research on everything from new
methods for monitoring groundwater discharge to managing water
supply in regions of New York that may experience increased water
demand. They use a combination of field observations and
numerical models to quantify impacts from over pumping of aquifers
and identifying source water to wetlands and ponds. I have
undergrads working on identifying changes in water quantity and
quality in streams and wetlands. These research projects are
designed to answer both fundamental and applied questions that
relate to maintaining and protecting water resources. The
credit should really go to my students who are some of the
brightest people I know and are literally going to change the way
we manage and protect water resources.
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you
do in your personal life to further sustainability?
I am a numbers guy and that is what motivates me to change my
habits. My family decided that we were not walking as much as
we should, so we got pedometers that wirelessly connect to our
computers. Once I looked at the numbers I realized that I sit
around most of the day. I now take the stairs to my office
and try to walk to meetings and when running errands. The
cool thing for me is getting to see the numbers everyday and now it
has started to become a bit of a family competition. Take my
word for it, don’t try to compete with a four year old on who
takes the most steps in a day, you will lose every time.
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
I would like to see UB build a green roof on a section of
Natural Sciences Complex that holds the large lecture halls.
A green roof is a collection of plants, typically in an array of
planter boxes, placed on top of an existing roof (a great example
Hall in Chicago). A green roof would cut down on heating
and cooling costs and reduce our CO2 footprint on campus. In
addition, the vegetation would capture rainwater and reduce the
amount of impervious surface. It would also be great if
students could have access to the roof where there would be tables
or some cool Adirondack chairs. A green roof NSC would have
high visibility from three major building that look down at the
site, including the administration offices.
Learn more about Lowry's research.