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Graduate Degree Programs
M.S., M.P.S. or Ph.D. Ecological Engineering

Ecological Engineering is the design of ecosystems for the mutual benefit of humans and the environment. Ideal design considers humans to be part of nature rather than apart from nature.

At ESF we believe that ecological engineering education and research should meet local to global needs. We teach and research sustainable solutions and approach ecological engineering broadly, working in many areas of the world and in most major areas of ecological engineering.

Program Requirements

Applicants to all ERE graduate programs of study are required to have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering and are expected to have completed at least one 3-credit course in physics, one 3-credit course in statistics, and two 3-credit courses in calculus. Students admitted without the necessary background are required to take additional prerequisite courses required by the department.

Program prerequisite or co-requisite courses include at least one semester of study in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, or statics; probability and statistics; ecology; and hydrology.

Program mastery courses beyond the departmental requirement include at least one course (3+ credit hours) in each of these areas of competence: 1) Ecosystem Restoration; 2) Pollutant Treatment; 3) Modeling; and 4) Ecosystem Sciences.

Looking Forward

Graduates from the ecological engineering option commonly find employment or continue their advanced graduate education in any of the following areas of practice:

  1. Ecosystem restoration, including watershed, river, forest and wetland restoration
  2. Design of sustainable systems for wastewater treatment and stormwater management
  3. Environmental remediation
  4. Urban ecosystem design and development
  5. Industrial ecology, life cycle analysis and sustainability analysis

Focus Areas

Sustainable Wastewater Treatment Systems

Sustainable Wastewater Treatment utilizes natural processes (e.g., photosynthesis, passive aeration, and microbial oxidation), renewable sources of energy (e.g., sunlight, wind, gravity, and biomass), natural materials and waste products (e.g., marble chips, rubber mulch, and furnace slag), and self-organization of ecosystems (e.g., microbial loop, aquatic plant community, and integration of nitritation and anammox in biofilms) to reach wastewater treatment, reuse or resource recovery goals. Because sustainable wastewater treatment relies on minimal fossil fuel energy and fewer mechanical processes, it is often cost-effective, compared to conventional wastewater treatment methods.

Our faculty and students have constructed and tested novel treatment wetlands, biofilters, vermifilters, and aquaponics in the northern U.S., Canada, and Honduras. In addition to investigating their applications, we explore the internal treatment mechanisms, and develop mechanistic models. We are thriving in sustainable struvite recovery from anaerobically digested dairy manure, producing revenues to underrepresented farmers while mitigating environmental impacts.

Contact Wendong for more information about this graduate study area.

Stream Restoration

Stream Restoration is the re-establishment of the general structure, function and self-sustaining behavior of the stream system that existed prior to disturbance. Restoration includes a broad range of measures, including the removal of the watershed disturbances that are causing stream instability; installation of structures and planting of vegetation to protect streambanks and provide habitat; and the reshaping or replacement of unstable stream reaches into appropriately designed functional streams and associated floodplains.

Enhancements may also include improved water quality and achieving a self-sustaining, functional flow regime in the stream system that does not require periodic human intervention, such as dredging or construction of flood control structures.

Restoration activities may range from a simple removal of a disturbance which inhibits natural stream function (e.g. repairing a damaged culvert), to stabilization of stream banks, to more active intervention such as installation of stormwater management structures.

We have been working in urban to rural New York and the country of Honduras.

Contact Ted for more information about this graduate studies area.

Phytoremediation and Bioremediation

Phytoremediation is a collective term for a number of processes that utilize bacteria, fungi, green plants to stabilize or remediate contaminated sites. Remediation processes by these organisms include stabilization, filtration, extraction, sequestration, and/or detoxification of contaminants. Hardwood species such as willow and poplar are used to create an environment that promotes evaporation to reduce percolation into contaminated soils. In addition, improved soil environment is more conducive to degradational processes.

We have been working primarily with development of short rotation woody crops on degraded lands such as brownfield sites in New York. We have had a several-year long project with particular emphasis on phytohydraulic applications to prevent pollutant migration to Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, NY. We also collaborate with wetland restoration ecologists in assessing the utilization of waste sites to restore salt marshes in central New York.

We are increasingly engaged in evaluating performance of green infrastructure systems such as rain gardens, green roofs and bioretention basins. Collaborative arrangements with restoration ecologists and landscape architects are investigating diverse projects such as design of green roof vegetated systems that are based on native plants. We have a functioning rain garden on campus that is instrumented with level and temperature sensors to compute the water balance and provide a resource for examining water quality improvements.

Students in this study area are supported through coursework in Phytotechnology (listed as ERE 796); field studies involving lysimeters, tensiometers, climate monitoring, eddy covariance; and model application.

Contact Doug Daley, for more information about this graduate studies area.

Participating Faculty

  • Douglas J. Daley;
    water resources, solid and hazardous waste management, ecological engineering, environmental restoration, phytoremediation, bioremediation, soil and water pollution, solid and hazardous waste management, environmental engineering
  • Theodore A. Endreny;
    water resources engineering, ecological engineering, stream restoration, urban watersheds, lesser-developed countries
  • Charles N. Kroll;
    stochastic and deterministic hydrology, environmental modeling, water resource systems engineering, ecological engineering, urban forestry, drought assessment, environmental systems engineering, stochastic and deterministic modeling, risk assessment, coupled human and natural systems
  • Timothy H. Morin;
    ecosystem nutrient cycling, wetlands, biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, ecosystem greenhouse gas transport, eddy covariance/micrometeorology
  • Wendong Tao;
    Ecological engineering and sustainable wastewater treatment (Constructed wetland, gravel biofilter, anammox-based nitrogen removal processes); Resource recovery from bioresidues (anaerobic digestion, solid-liquid separation, struvite recovery, ammonia recovery)
  • Yaqi You;
    environmental microbiology and biotechnology, sustainable food-energy-water nexus, emerging contaminants, biogeochemistry, environmental health and pathogen exposure