Before he arrived at F&ES in the fall of 2010, Bryan Yoon
had never heard of Herbert Bormann
The first time he came across Bormann’s name was during a class that year, when the former F&ES professor’s book, Biogeochemistry of a Forested Ecosystem
, was the assigned textbook. Before long he learned more about Bormann’s pioneering work in ecosystems research, including the study that first called the world’s attention to the threat of acid rain in the 1970s.
Three years later, F&ES doctoral student Yoon says he considers Bormann, who died in 2012, a personal hero and views Bormann's work as one of environmental science’s “great success stories
So for Yoon, it was especially meaningful last month when he was awarded the inaugural F. Herbert Bormann Prize, established to honor research that builds on the legacy of the long-time F&ES professor. Yoon received the prize for a 2012 study that revealed the staggering amount of organic matter released into a New York reservoir during Hurricane Irene a year earlier.
“This is the greatest honor I can ever get,” Yoon said last week. “This is like a physicist getting an award [named] after Newton or Einstein. That’s how much it means to me.
“Not only was Herb Bormann a pioneer in my field, but he’s a great example of what a scientist should be. His ability to collect long-term data, find patterns, and share his findings in a way that is directly applicable to our society.”
During 2011, Yoon had been collecting his own data, on the amount of dissolved organic matter entering the Catskills’ Ashokan Reservoir — a critical source of drinking water for New York City. In late August of that year, as Hurricane Irene churned toward the northeastern U.S., Yoon’s adviser, Peter A. Raymond
, suggested it was a good opportunity to gauge the effects of an extreme weather event on the local ecosystem’s carbon cycle.
Yoon drove up to the Catskills, set up his equipment, and took shelter in his uncle’s house nearby as the storm dumped 11 inches of rain in two days. Once local roadways were reopened following the storm Yoon collected the samples and analyzed the data.