Scientific Interests and Expertise of the Environmental Science Advisory Committee

The below list of faculty serve on the Academic Advisory Board for the Environmental Science program at Appalachian.  This is not a comprehensive list of faculty involved in environmental science-related activies - more information can be obtained from the individual departmental faculty listings within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Carla Penders is a lecturer in Physics and Environmental Science and the student advisor for our program.  Carla studies various aspects of environmental phsyics, including stream bed grain sizing, atmospheric physics, and instrumentation/automation.

Carol Babyak is an environmental chemist who studies water quality, metal speciation using electrochemical methods, and environmental endocrine disruptors using solid phase extraction and high performance liquid chromatography.

Seth Cohen has a background in Chemical Engineering (BS) and PhD in Food Science and Technology.  He has spent many years in commercial wine production and working in the food industry.  His research interests are focused on grape and wine chemistry as well as fermentation science as it relates to food and beverage production and bioprocessing of agricultural and waste products.

Jeff Colby is a physical geographer with interests in the application of GIS and remote sensing science and technology to watershed, flood, and environmental modeling, and multi-spectral satellite imagery analysis in mountain environments.

Robert Creed is and aquatic ecologist who is interested in the processes that structure aquatic communities (biotic interactions, disturbance) and evaluating how species can affect ecosystem functions.

Saskia van de Gavel is a physical geographer.  Her interests focus on forest disturbance ecology of the Eastern deciduous forest and high elevation mountain ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains.

Richard Gray is an astrophysicist specializing in stellar spectroscopy and stellar atmospheres with specific research on the spectra of solar-type stars and the stellar activity of young solar analogues, including the implications of that activity for the environment of the early earth.

Scott Marshall is a geophysicist who works on problems in structural geology and neotectonics.

Jessica Mitchell has a background in applied remote sensing / GIS, and environmental planning. Her research currently focuses on the integration of terrestrial, airborne and satellite spatial data for 3D vegetation characterization and ecological forecasting.

Howard Neufeld is an ecophysiologist who investigates the effects of tropospheric ozone on plants native to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  

Chuanhui Gu is a geochemist and environmental hydrologist who focuses research on the hydrological control on inorganic nitrogen loading to coastal streams.

René Salinas is a mathematical ecologist who develops spatially explicit models to investigate spatial control problems in wildlife populations.

Mitch Parry is a computer scientist with postdoctoral experience in biomedical engineering and interdisciplinary interests in music, chemistry, biology, and biomedical informatics.  His work focuses on untangling the underlying sources of information in large data sets.

James Sherman is a physicist who applies laser and optical techniques toward studies of the interaction of atmospheric aerosols and water vapor with solar radiation and high-energy laser beam propagation.

Bob Swarthout is an environmental chemist who studies the impacts of naturally produced organic compounds and organic pollutants derived from unconventional natural gas and oil production on air quality, water quality, and climate using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques.

Brett Taubman is an atmospheric chemist who investigates the effects of both anthropogenic (sulfate, nitrate, and soot particles from industrial and combustion processes) and natural (organic particles from biogenic emissions and wildfire) aerosols on the solar radiation budget in the Southern Appalachian region.  

The Faculty Advisory Board Meets at least once per semester to discuss issues and drive change within the Environmental Science program.  Aside from the faculty listed above, other faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences participate.  There is also student representation on the board.

Meetings take place in Edwin Duncan Hall, Suite 108.  Contact Dr. Chris Thaxton if you wish to address the board at the next meeting.


Program Director

Chris Thaxton  is the director of the Environmental Science Program, a physicist whose research team studies a wide variety of terrestrial surface processes including bedload sediment transport, mountain streamflow and scalar field modeling, and terrain and pattern formation and evolution.  Projects also include remote sensing instrumentation development and interfacing.  

Dr. Christopher S. Thaxton
Environmental Science Program
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Appalachian State University
525 Rivers Street
Boone, NC 28608

Advising Coordinator

Carla Penders
Environmental Science Program
Appalachian State University
phone: 828-262-2747