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Field of Constructed Wetlands Born Because of Work by UT Alum

Curt RichardsonIn 1972, UT was one of two universities offering a PhD in ecology. Curt Richardson (PhD ’72) was the second person to ever graduate from UT with a PhD in ecology.

“No question UT put me on the path to a remarkable career,” says Richardson, who was hired as assistant professor of ecology in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan after completing his degree. During his time at the University of Michigan, he worked on one of the first major studies in the United States on the ecological and biogeochemical effects of waste water additions to wetlands at Houghton Lake.

“I am proud to say my research showed that wetlands cannot efficiently remove phosphorus from the water and that the natural wetland communities were greatly altered by the invasion of cattails,” says Richardson, whose research stopped EPA from approving the use of natural wetlands for wastewater treatment. “Thus, the field of constructed wetlands was born.”

Richardson accepted a position as head of the ecology program in the Duke School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, which later became the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. In the 38 years since, Richardson has worn many hats from ecology program chairman to acting dean of the school.

“However,” says Richardson, “my first love is teaching and research.” As professor of resource ecology, he has mentored hundreds of students and founded the Duke University Wetland Center in 1989.

Throughout his career, he has directed research on some of the most important wetland and water issues of our time. He is the author or co-author of over 200 peer-reviewed papers, written several books, received numerous national awards, and has been listed in Who’s Who in Science each year since 1989.

“These career achievements cannot outshine the real value of having the opportunity to work with great students and people over the past four decades.”


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