2019 Ruth Patrick Award Recipient

Jennifer Tank (University of Notre Dame) 

The Ruth Patrick Award honors scientists who have made outstanding contributions towards solving environmental problems. This year, ASLO recognizes Jennifer Tank with the 2019 Ruth Patrick Award for her significant contributions to aquatic biogeochemistry, applying those fundamental concepts to human-impacted agricultural landscapes, and informing how conservation practices influence stream management through community engagement. Tank is the Galla Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative. The award will be presented at the ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2019.

Tank’s early research contributed greatly to our understanding of fundamental stream biogeochemistry, extending the concept of eutrophication from one based solely on algal responses in lakes to a more comprehensive view of the effects of excess nutrients in flowing waters. Her research showed that both nitrogen and phosphorus availability influence stream ecosystems responses to excess nutrients, and that the unique characteristics of nutrient cycles should be considered in open vs. closed-canopy streams. She was also one of the first to highlight the importance of seasonality in stream biogeochemical dynamics. After moving to the midwestern US, Tank transitioned from pristine systems to more unorthodox streams that surrounded her in Indiana: ditches. Tank recognized that agricultural ditches designed to expedite water drainage from agricultural fields were avenues for transporting vast amounts of soil, nutrients, crop residues, and agrochemicals downstream – and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Her work with farmers, who she engages as partners rather than “polluters”, has enabled her to tackle complex questions related to nutrient transport and uptake, rates of denitrification, and consequences of transgenic corn residues in the streams. Her studies have become foundational works for stream biogeochemistry, with over 12,500 citations.

Current president of the Society for Freshwater Science and, Tank is a respected leader in her field. She is a key player in defining the emerging field of “Translational Ecology”, which emphasizes the exchange of ideas between scientists and their citizen beneficiaries. “Jennifer’s work to bring together farmers, conservationists and others to investigate the relationship between agricultural practices and water quality is remarkable. I especially admire the studies she is doing to test the impacts of different crop rotations at the watershed scale,” said Michael Pace, ASLO President.