Charles T. Driscoll

Charles T. Driscoll

University Professor of Environmental Systems and Distinguished Professor

Civil & Environmental Engineering


  • B.S. (with distinction), Civil Engineering, University of Maine 1974
  • M.S., Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 1976
  • Ph.D., Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 1980

Lab/Center Affiliation:

  • Center for Environmental Systems Engineering

Research Interests:

  • Aquatic chemistry
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Climate change science and engineering
  • Environmental quality modeling
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Ecosystem science
  • Stormwater management
  • Hydrology
  • Limnology
  • Soil chemistry

Current Research:

My research largely involves characterization and quantifying the impacts of air pollution, such as “acid rain,” mercury, elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide and associated effects of changing climate and land and water disturbances on the structure and function of ecosystems. Much of my work has focused on forest and associated aquatic resources, including studies at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH and the Huntington Forest in the Adirondacks, NY. I also examine effects on wetlands, the Great Lakes, urban ecosystems, coastal waters and the open ocean. Over the past 35 years, I have advanced new analytical techniques, established and maintained long-term measurements and experiments, and developed a series of research and predictive models that simulate transformations of major chemical elements in forest vegetation, soil and surface waters in response to air pollution, climate and land disturbance. Beyond theory, I am interested in testing ‘in situ’ strategies to reverse the damaging effects of acid rain and mercury contamination and eutrophication. Current research includes using models, field experiments and measurements to examine: ecosystem effects of changing climate and acidic, nitrogen and mercury deposition; the effectiveness of “green” water infrastructure in stormwater management; and ecosystem restoration. Recently we have been quantifying health and ecosystem co-benefits associated with a national carbon standard for power plant emissions.

To advance the “broader impacts” of research, I try to serve society through participation in various national and international committees and panels; advising federal and state agencies; working with natural resource managers and policy makers; briefing Congress and state officials; serving as an associate editor for the journal, Biogeochemistry; and informing the media and the public on the results of research. I am particularly interested in multidisciplinary activities, and synthesis and translation of scientific and engineering research. These activities inform my research. Finally, I am interested in improving and advancing science communication. I want science and engineering information to be accessible to the public and policy-makers to help guide cost-effective decisions on natural resource management.

Courses Taught:

  • Environmental chemistry
  • Biogeochemistry

I teach undergraduate and graduate-level classes in environmental engineering, sustainable civil and environmental systems, aquatic chemistry and biogeochemistry. I have graduate students, undergraduate students and even some high school students who work in my laboratory. These students have a keen interest in research. They are encouraged to interpret their results in the context of environmental problems and issues, to interact with the research community beyond Syracuse University, present the findings of their research at professional meetings and publish in peer-reviewed journals. We have a new graduate training program called EMPOWER (Education Model Program on Water Energy Research, funded by the National Science Foundation) that will advance research on the energy-water nexus and provide training opportunities beyond science and engineering in science communication, public policy and research program management.


  • Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honor Society, Maine Alpha, 1974
  • Chi Epsilon, National Civil Engineering Honor Society, 1980
  • Presidential Young Investigator Award, National Science Foundation, 1984
  • Syracuse University Chancellor’s Citation for Academic Achievement, 1985
  • Syracuse University, College of Engineering, Anaren Microwave Award for Excellence in Engineering Scholarship, 1989
  • IBM Corporation Environmental Research Program Award, 1993
  • Institute of Scientific Information, Highly Cited Researcher for Engineering and Environmental Science, 2003-present
  • National Academy of Engineering, 2007-present
  • Syracuse University Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Recognition Award, March 2007
  • Adirondack Research Consortium Lifetime Achievement Award, 2012

Selected Publications:

Battles, J. J., T. J. Fahey, C. T. Driscoll, J. D. Blum, and C. E. Johnson. 2014. Restoring soil calcium reverses forest decline. Environmental Science & Technology Letters 1:15-19.

Blackwell, B. D., and C. T. Driscoll. 2015. Deposition of mercury in forests along a montane elevation gradient. Environmental Science & Technology 49:5363-5370.

Driscoll, C. T., K. F. Lambert, D. Burtraw, J. J. Buonocore, S. B. Reid, and H. Fakhraei. 2015 online. US power plant carbon standards and clean air and health co-benefits. Nature Climate Change 5:535-540.

Driscoll, C. T., R. P. Mason, H. M. Chan, D. J. Jacob, and N. Pirrone. 2013. Mercury as a global pollutant: Sources, pathways, and effects. Environmental Science & Technology 47:4967-4983.

Fakhraei, H., and C. T. Driscoll. 2015. Proton and aluminum binding properties of organic acids in surface waters of the Northeastern, USA. Environmental Science & Technology 49:2939-2947.

Fakhraei, H., C. T. Driscoll, P. Selvendiran, J. V. DePinto, J. Bloomfield, S. Quinn, and C. Rowell. 2014. Development of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for acid-impaired lakes in the Adirondack region of New York. Atmospheric Environment 95:277-287.

Todorova, S., C. T. Driscoll, D. A. Matthews, and S. W. Effler. 2015. Zooplankton community changes confound the biodilution theory of methylmercury accumulation in a recovering mercury-contaminated lake. Environmental Science & Technology 49:4066-4071.