water droplets on a leaf

Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering research at Syracuse University includes a broad range of activities in both engineered systems and the natural environment. Active projects incorporate field and laboratory process studies, experiments and modeling activities. We pursue interdisciplinary research that integrates the biological, chemical, and physical sciences to answer questions that are relevant to society.

The department has a long history of research that characterizes and quantifies the response of watersheds to land disturbance, such as logging, climate events,  urbanization, and air pollution, notably acid deposition and trace metals, including mercury. This work has now been expanded to include trace organics and dissolved organic matter. The research incorporates long-term monitoring of ecosystems, process measurements in the field, manipulative experiments, development of natural and engineered treatment systems, and modeling to address research questions that are relevant to policy makers. New research in green stormwater control technologies builds on this experience in ecological monitoring and experimentation.

We have recently enhanced our research on climate change. This includes modeling future changes in hydrologic processes and in natural and managed ecosystems as well as impacts of policy alternatives to mitigate change. For example, we have examined the health benefits in terms of lives saved and hospitalizations avoided, and ecosystem benefits of regulating carbon emissions from power plants for various scenarios of carbon emissions. We are also working closely with practitioners to examine the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme events such as flooding, drought, and extended heat waves. We have recently expanded this capability to include the vulnerability and resilience of urban infrastructures to terroristic hazards. We have initiated a large field and modeling study to examine the long-term consequences associated with increased frequency of ice storms.

The environmental engineering research has been bolstered through strategic partnerships with industry and government. For example, we are collaborating with the City and County governments to better understand how green infrastructure technologies perform under a wide range of weather conditions. Our joint research with industrial partners accelerated the remediation efforts at Onondaga Lake resulting in the development of a novel treatment technology for sediments contaminated with mercury and saving millions of taxpayer dollars.