Colin Gleason, an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the Armstrong Professional Development Professor at UMass Amherst, has won the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2023 Hydrology Hydrologic Sciences Early Career Award. The AGU bestows this prestigious honor upon individuals for meritorious work or service toward the advancement and promotion of discovery and solution science.

The AGU, the world’s largest earth- and space-science association, annually recognizes a select number of individuals as part of its Honors and Recognition program. According to the AGU, the global earth- and space-sciences community recognizes Gleason for his dedication to advancing those sciences.

As Gleason explained in an article by the UMass Amherst News Office about his AGU award, “This one means a lot to me. AGU is my primary academic organization, and I’ve attended their annual meeting every year since I started my Ph.D. [at UCLA]. Lots of folks I admire have won this one, and this really helps validate UMass hydrology within this massive organization.”

Gleason is the major force behind such validation. Beyond this AGU award, Gleason is also a National Science Foundation CAREER awardee, a NASA New Investigator, the Lead Academic Scientist for Calibration and Validation of U.S. Inland Hydrology for the recently launched NASA Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite project, and a member of the Science Teams for NASA’s SWOT and High Mountain Asia programs.

Gleason heads the Fluvial@UMass research lab in the CEE department. As he said on his lab website, “We are a research group that cares about rivers, climate change, and the Arctic. We do field work, we do remote sensing, and we model rivers in order to improve our basic understanding of these most important water features.”

Gleason said he focuses on translating process-based hydrology and geochemistry to global scales through extensive Arctic fieldwork, satellite-data processing, and geomorphically informed modelling and data assimilation.

Gleason also explained  how his work focuses on two questions. How much water exists on Earth? And where is it at any given time on a global scale?

“People would say it’s a waste of time and funding; that, for the same funding of launching a satellite, you could have funded so much field work,” Gleason said. “But we’ve proven that this work is worthwhile. It is viable.”

Gleason has been quite active in uniting the seemingly opposing viewpoints represented by satellite data, on the one hand, and field data gathered by first-hand ground expeditions, on the other. His work for NASA and his numerous personal ground expeditions to the Arctic and other remote places are proof of his dedication to combining the two viewpoints into a global holistic worldview about gathering data.

“We spent about half a decade arguing satellite versus ground-based, but it’s both,” Gleason said. “The more ground data you have, the better our space data is.”

The AGU will recognize Gleason at its annual conference in December, when more than 25,000 attendees from over 100 countries will convene in San Francisco and online. (October 2023)

Article posted in Faculty