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Stephen Shaw

Stephen B. Shaw

Assistant Professor

418 Baker Lab- 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4757

Phone: 470-6939

Email: sbshaw@esf.edu

  • 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 sbshaw@esf.edu 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 570 (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 – GNE 271 (Fall):
Covers fundamentals of analysis of static systems including equlibrium in rigid bodies, distributed loads, and trusses. A portion of the class is spent on open-ended problem solving and engineering design.


Current Graduate Advisees

Current Graduate Advisees

Kadir GozKadir Goz

  • Degree Sought: MS in Environmental Resources Engineering
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw

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


Meghan MussehlMeghan Mussehl

  • Degree Sought: MS in Environmental Resources Engineering
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Undergraduate Institute: Smith College (Engineering Science)

LinkedIn Profile

Graduate Research Topic
Coupled social and hydrologic models. Sustainable, equitable approaches to water resource management.

Favorite Quote
Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. -Kurt Vonnegut

Maggie TodaroMaggie Todaro

  • Degree Sought: MS in Environmental Resources Engineering
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw

Graduate Research Topic
Is there enough water for farmers? Assessing water application rates and calculating supply under low-flow conditions in Western New York.

Undergraduate Institute:
Binghamton University


  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Water Resources Engineering