Graduate student wins first Keohane Student Award for hydrology research

UNC geography graduate student Jon Duncan was awarded the first Keohane Professional Graduate Student Award for his research in hydrology.

Duncan conducts research with the Nannerl Keohane Distinguished Professor Jeffrey McDonnell, a visiting professor at both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke.

As a watershed hydrologist, Duncan studies nitrogen cycling and the exports from watersheds. Low nitrogen levels in watersheds he examined prompted his research into where the nitrogen goes, or what hydrologic or ecosystem processes cause it.

“These questions we are asking aren’t just abstract concepts — they are fundamental science questions that have tremendous economic and societal impact,” Duncan said.

Research like Duncan’s is significant for management and restoration of watersheds, because of the study of how watersheds process nutrients, like nitrogen.

Duncan’s work with McDonnell has led to a study of hillslope hydrology and how rainfall becomes streamflow. McDonnell has also encouraged more collaboration between UNC and Duke by creating a joint theoretical workshop on network structures on watershed systems.

The Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professorship was established in honor of Duke’s eighth president, Nan Keohane, who worked with then-UNC Chancellor James Moeser for further collaboration between the two schools. This is the first year a graduate student award was created to recognize one student from each school.