Denis Newbold, Ph.D., Research Scientist Emeritus, Has Been Named a 2018 Society for Freshwater Science Fellow
Fellows are selected based on sustained excellence in contributions to freshwater science research, policy, or management. They are the leaders, at national and international levels, of their areas of freshwater science.
Newbold studied at Swarthmore (B.S., engineering), Cornell (M.S., hydrology), and Berkeley (Ph.D., aquatic ecology), then did a post-doc at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, before moving to the Stroud Center in 1983.
Studying How Particles Travel Downstream
Spiraling became a career-long interest, and he continues to study the factors that control how microscopic organic particles travel through stream and river networks. Originating mainly in small headwater streams — which comprise over 90 percent of all streams and almost half of all river miles — these particles supply the food webs of larger streams, rivers, and estuaries, but they can also be carriers of harmful contaminants.
Using experimental streamside channels, or flumes, Newbold is finding that a particle’s downstream journey is regulated in large part by a complex of bacteria, other microorganisms, and organic matter that coat streambed sediments, creating a biofilm that entraps and incorporates particles before subsequently releasing them to resume their downstream transit. The longer travel times enable the organic matter to be more efficiently used within the ecosystem and also allow more effective processing of contaminants, thereby improving water quality.
Scientist, Conservationist, Activist
Another long-term interest of Newbold’s is in how riparian buffers protect stream ecosystems. His research has produced 77 publications, contributing to our understanding of the ecological structure and function of streams and informing general ecological theory. He has also been active with conservation efforts and assisted local government agencies.
Of his strong political beliefs and his commitment to scientific rigor Newbold says, “The connector is truth … I try to be as honest as I can, never twisting the truth in either politics or science.” — From A Seeker of the Truth