Geoscience professor conducts drought research after winning Centennial Professor Award

Baylor awarded geoscience professor Dr. Joe Yelderman with the Centennial Professor Award. Only two of the awards are handed out each year and along with being a Baylor professor, Yelderman is also the director of The Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Photo courtesy of Baylor Geosciences

By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer

Baylor chose to award geoscience professor Dr. Joe Yelderman last week with one of this year’s two Centennial Professor Awards. Along with being a Baylor professor, Yelderman is also the director of The Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Baylor geoscience chair Dr. Steven Driese said Yelderman is certainly deserving of this award. Driese said he knows Yelderman very well because even before they became professors at Baylor, the two went to graduate school together at the University of Wisconsin.

“He is the perfect person because he is very interdisciplinary,” Driese said. “He transcends across different boundaries between environmental science and biology and geoscience … He’s a really integral part of our geoscience program because of water-related research.”

Yelderman said he will be conducting research in Texas regarding exurban droughts, which are a new type of human-induced droughts with potentially serious consequences.

“Most exurban developments do not provide water and houses usually depend upon individual wells,” Yelderman said. “This project will investigate the magnitude of drought impacts to baseflow and groundwater levels within a meaningful context.”

With the Centennial Professor Award, Yelderman will receive $5,000 to aid him with his research. He said that this money will primarily be used for travel expenses, because he is studying nine different areas in Texas ranging from Dallas to San Antonio.

Yelderman said that without the award money, it would have been difficult to conduct these studies.

While Yelderman’s research is regarding groundwater in Texas, he said he would not be surprised if his studies were impactful in other areas of America as well.

“I believe the biggest impact of exurban development on streamflow is in Texas,” Yelderman said. “But I suspect a similar phenomenon is occurring in a lot of areas across the country.”

Driese agreed that the research Yelderman will be conducting is important for society.

“He is going to be studying the droughts in Texas and their impact on groundwater,” Driese said. “I think that’s a really important topic. This happens to be a state where it’s feast or famine. Every five or six years, we go from excessive flooding to extreme heat and drought.

Yelderman said the knowledge he will gain from this research will subsequently help him in the classroom.

“I teach an interdisciplinary, cross-listed (GEO/ENV) water management course open to all majors that has continually increased in demand,” Yelderman said. “This project will increase my understanding of water management, thereby improving my teaching which will benefit students and the university.

Yelderman said the research will even help Baylor with its efforts to join the Research Tier 1 ranks.

“The data gathered and new connections with water management entities will increase opportunities for external funding and publications,” Yelderman said, “which will increase Baylor’s potential to achieve Tier-1 and R-1 status.”