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Stephen Shaw

Stephen B. Shaw
Assistant Professor

418 Baker Lab
1 Forestry Dr.
Syracuse, New York 13210

Phone: (315) 470-6939


  • CV (PDF)

Research Interests

I am currently working on a number of topics broadly falling under the umbrella of “impacts to water resources in a changing climate”. The topics are somewhat disparate (relative to the specificity of most researchers today), but the motivation behind the investigations is similar. Namely, there is a need to more carefully assess fundamental assumptions behind hydrologic processes being made in climate change impact studies.  

Particularly in assessing impacts due to climate change, researchers are often 1) focused on selecting GCM runs, downscaling, and linking to models that simulate local impacts or 2) focused on making estimates of change over broad geographic regions (e.g. entire U.S., entire world).  Thus, there is often limited time, energy, or interest in closely evaluating the more hydrologically oriented components of an expansive modeling project.  My research seeks to fill this gap and to highlight the potential dramatic misrepresentation of future changes (or at least the failure to acknowledge uncertainties) when processes are misrepresented.  

My standard approach is to use cross-comparisons among data sets from differing hydroclimatological regions to emphasize the distinct signature of certain outcomes in certain regions (be it crop yield, baseflow, relationship of maximum rainfall intensity to air temperature) and the differing underlying processes.    Instead of using a computational model that whose primary validation is an ability to simulate relatively simple time series (e.g. streamflow), I seek to develop simple models that explain differences between signatures of distinct processes in different hydroclimatological regions. 

Topics include:

  1. Are we misapplying Boussinesq theory when we explain streamflow recessions in watersheds that are not groundwater dominated?
  2. Is there really an upper limit to stream temperature in all streams, or is it only present in arid regions?
  3. Are changes in flood frequency due to climate change easier to predict in some regions compared to others?
  4. How much variability in historical annual corn grain yield can actually be explained by climate variability in different growing regions?
  5. Do forest canopy characteristics matter more than we think in estimating evapotranspiration from forested watersheds?
  6. Are changes in extreme rainfall in some regions due predominantly to thermodynamic effects while in others changes are due to a broad shift in underlying circulation?

I am always in search of enthusiastic graduate students or possible collaborators. Please email at if there is a topic that strikes your interest.


Fluid Mechanics - ERE 339 (Fall):
An introduction to fluid mechanics within the context of civil and environmental engineering. This includes the standard topics of hydrostatics, Bernoulli’s Equation, control volume analysis, drag, dynamic similitude, pipe flow, and open channel flow with some brief coverage of hydraulic machines and flow in porous media. In addition to teaching rigorous quantitative analysis of problems in fluid mechanics, the class strives to provide students with a strong conceptual understanding of fluid phenomenon.  

Hydrology in a Changing Climate- ERE 496/596 (Spring):
A graduate level class that uses recent academic literature to investigate how predicted global climate changes are being translated into local hydrologic changes.  The class explores the formulation of land-atmosphere interactions in GCMs, estimates of continental scale moisture redistribution, dominant atmospheric mechanisms that explain precipitation patterns, GCM downscaling methods, sources of uncertainty in GCMs, and approaches to developing water resource related adaptation plans under uncertainty. The intended outcome of the class is to give students the background to critically assess the reasonability of predictions of future changes in hydrology in different locales. 

Statics and Dynamics – GNE 172(Fall):
An undergraduate class concerned with the state of motion (or lack thereof) in objects to which forces are being applied. Statics provides a background from which to understand the stability of structures. Dynamics provides a background from which to understand the motion of objects, from cars, to planets, to weather systems. A main purpose of this class is to serve as an intermediary between introductory classes introducing fundamental concepts (physics and calculus) and applied engineering classes focused on specific engineering problems.  While you will learn about some aspects of applied engineering, much of this class will be spent practicing your basic math, physics, and problem solving skills.

Readings in Contemporary Hydrology – ERE 797 (Spring):
A graduate seminar that explores hydrology- related subjects of recent interest.  The primary intent is to give students an opportunity to carefully read and discuss recent papers in the academic literature. In 2013, we read papers related to shale gas development. In 2014, we read portions of the Physical Basis Report of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report .

Current Graduate Advisees

Donald BonvilleDonald Bonville

  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water Resources Engineering
  • Undergraduate Institute: SUNY Center Albany (Environmental Science)

Web Link

Graduate Research Topic
Water Resources Engineering

Favorite Quote
"If I fret over tomorrow, I'll have little joy today."

Casey HaltonCasey Halton

  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water Resources Engineering
  • Undergraduate Institute: SUNY College New Paltz (Geochemistry)


Graduate Research Topic
I am currently assessing the practicality of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) for evaluating short and long term changes in stream morphology and sediment loads. I am comparing TLS data collected in Oneida Creek and in McKinley Hollow (Catskill Mountains, New York) to LiDAR data as well as orthoimagery and digitized historical aerial imagery dating back as far as the 1930s.

Favorite Quote
Never let your fear decide your fate.

Casey Halton - LinkedIn Profile


Timothy IvancicTimothy Ivancic

  • Degree Sought: PHD
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water Resources Engineering
  • Undergraduate Institute: SUNY College New Paltz (Physics)
  • Previous Graduate Study: Case Western Reserve Univ (Physics )

Graduate Research Topic
Studying the link between extreme precipitation intensity and temperature.

Favorite Quote
Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there. Richard Feynman

Home Page
Web Link

Ian MacCollIan MacColl

  • Degree Sought: MPS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water & Wetland Resource Studies

Rebecca MeissnerRebecca Meissner

  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water Resources Engineering
  • Undergraduate Institute: SUNY College at Geneseo (Physics)

Linkedin Profile
Web Link

Graduate Research Topic
Identifying the simplest predictive model of annual runoff ratio in order to quantify the hydrologic impact of climate change in a Great Lakes river basin

Favorite Quote
“You are your only hope, because we’re not changing until you do. Our job is to keep coming at you, as hard as we can, with everything that angers, upsets, or repulses you, until you understand. We love you that much, whether we’re aware of it or not. The whole world is about you.” -Byron Katie

Nada RezkyNada Rezky

  • Degree Sought: MPS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water Resources Engineering
  • Undergraduate Institute: University of Brawijaya (WRE)

Graduate Research Topic
River Planning and Management

Favorite Quote
"So many books, so little time" -F.Z.-

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