The Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence is given annually to a WSU Vancouver faculty member whose research quality and quantity are exemplary, and whose work has had a positive influence on the broader community. It is the university’s highest research honor.
Associate Professor, School of the Environment
Since joining the WSU Vancouver faculty in 2006, John Harrison has brought more than $2 million in external funding to WSU. He studies watershed biochemistry, with particular attention to the effects of human activities on watersheds. Recently, his Global Change and Watershed Biochemistry Lab has been exploring the effects of nitrogen and other bioactive nutrients on coastal and riverine ecosystems, including the Columbia River and Pacific Northwest ocean shores.
"One of the major global changes now is acceleration of the global nitrogen cycle," Harrison said. "Through activities associated with food and energy production, such as making fertilizer, burning fossil fuels and planting legume crops, humans have more than doubled the rate at which nitrogen is available on land. This activity has allowed us to feed a large global population, but it also has an environmental impact when nitrogen doesn't stay where we want." In particular, nitrogen flushed downstream has a pronounced impact on coastal zones.
Harrison has published 48 peer-reviewed papers, most in top journals, as well as dozens of abstracts and other publications. An influential study that recently appeared in Global Biogeochemical Cycles is the result of collaboration between Harrison and WSU Vancouver Research Associate Daniel Reed. It focuses on first-of-its-kind model they have developed to predict where coastal "dead" zones are likely to appear around the globe. These low-oxygen zones, which can harm fish, marine plants and humans, result from human activities on land as well as oceanic conditions.
Drawing on research funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, several forthcoming papers will focus on different aspects of the relationship between reservoirs and greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately Harrison hopes to bring lessons learned from studying reservoirs in the Pacific Northwest to reservoir managing agencies throughout the country.
Harrison has worked as an expert consultant for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and conducted research at the University of California, Davis, and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences of Rutgers University. He currently co-chairs the Global NEWS UNESCO-IOC Work Group, an international, interdisciplinary scientific task force focused on understanding the relationship between human activities and coastal nutrient enrichment.
Harrison earned his bachelor's degree with honors from Brown University and his Ph.D. in Geological & Environmental Sciences from Stanford University. He holds an Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professorship from the College of Arts and Sciences and is the recipient of many national awards and fellowships for his scholarship.