Estuary scholar honored

Jun 09, 2017 John Stumbos
Kate Hewett receives Van Alfen/MacDonald Graduate Student Support Fund award

Kate Hewett
Kathryn (Kate) Hewett is the 2017 recipient of the Neal Van Alfen and James MacDonald Graduate Student Support Fund award for her exemplary research and leadership on the science of estuaries.

“The selection committee was very impressed with her strong academic record and demonstrated commitment of service to the campus and community,” said Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Hewett is a Ph.D. student in the Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Group. She works with her major professor, John Largier, an oceanographer in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy who is stationed at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Hewett has been building on her master’s studies on the role of hypoxia, a lack of oxygen, in the Russian River estuary.

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, estuaries are influenced not only by freshwater runoff from the land, but also by intrusions of seawater. Thus water quality and aquatic habitat in estuaries are strongly driven by changes in the ocean.

“This is the compelling challenge that Kate has taken on in her Ph.D. work,” Largier said. “She is reaching out to sea to better measure, document, assess, and understand the important role of the ocean in driving the biogeochemistry of West Coast estuaries—an emerging environmental issue as climate change brings about multiple changes in the chemistry and physics of coastal waters.”

An excellent student academically (3.9 GPA), she is an effective communicator in both research and teaching situations. She has four papers nearing publication in academic journals.

Hewett previously earned B.S. (University of Vermont) and M.S. degrees (UC Davis) in civil and environmental engineering. As a professional mentor for the UC Davis chapter of Engineers Without Borders, she guided 14 fellow students in the planning and implementation of water projects in developing countries. This effort led to a successful trip to Quincucirca, Bolivia, and the installation of the town’s first water distribution system.

“Kate brings together a unique blend of the technical skills required of engineering, the creativity required to address complex environmental problems, and the passion combined with humanity required to bring such work to fruition with the public,” said hydrology professor Mark Grismer in support of Hewett’s nomination.

The Neal Van Alfen and James MacDonald Graduate Student Support Fund award was established to acknowledge the contributions of former dean Van Alfen and former executive associate dean MacDonald. The honor includes a $7,500 award.

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