Stephen B. Shaw | Environmental Resources Engineering | SUNY-ESF
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Stephen B. ShawAssociate Professor

Stephen Shaw

418 Baker Lab
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse, NY 13210


  • 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”. These topics involve both applied and basic research. A summary of recent research papers can be accessed at Google Scholar:

My applied research focuses mainly on building climate resiliency in agricultural systems in the Northeastern US, particularly in regards to drought. Regional climate projections ( indicate a high likelihood of warmer summer temperatures and a 50/50 chance of reduced summer precipitation. A logical approach to combat drought is irrigation. However, while the Northeastern US is generally a wet place, they key to irrigation is to have sufficient, easily accessed stored water when it is needed in dry summer periods.  Especially in most rural regions in the Northeast, there are limited areas with high yield aquifers or access to the outflow from large reservoirs.  My work investigates possible changes to regional water infrastructure to better supply irrigation water. To date, I have mainly been focused on investigating the possibility of enhancing irrigation via the Barge Canal in Western New York ( The Barge Canal was originally constructed for cargo transportation, but it also has the potential to be a high volume conduit for Great Lakes water into fertile agricultural regions in New York. In the future, I am also looking to identify other areas in the Northeast with untapped potential for low-cost irrigation.        

My basic research  focuses on better understanding fundamental physical hydrologic processes. There are two main areas of research here.

First, standard physical hydrology and engineering hydrology approaches to estimate evapotranspiration (ET) often minimize the role of vegetation. Namely, changes in vegetation age, species, and period of leaf presence (i.e. phenology) can potentially exert strong controls on ET. While some of these factors can be accounted for in model calibration, ignoring these factors when trying to predict the future catchment water balances could lead to sizable errors. My research takes a dual approach. It uses macro-scale water balance studies across numerous watersheds with multi-decadal climate and hydrologic records to identify varying long-term controls on ET.  Additionally, we are newly focusing on using tree sap flow measurements to identify inter-species variation as well as to better understand intra-seasonal variations in ET. 

Second, there has long been an effort to extract hydrologic information from streamflow records during non-rain periods following large storm events (i.e. recession periods). There remains debate about what properties of watersheds are revealed by these recession periods. Does it tell us something only about aquifer properties? Does it tell us something more broad about watershed subsurface heterogeneity, spatial variations in watershed water storage, and broad controls on the watershed storage-discharge relationship? This work entails analyzing streamflow from numerous gaged watersheds. Answering these questions can help understand water availability during dry periods as well as help construct more robust hydrologic models, not as dependent on calibration.     

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 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. 

Numerical and Computing Methods – ERE 335/ERE 530 (Fall): Introduction to numerical and computing methods for engineers. The class entails writing computer code to analyze and solve engineering problems using R.


Current Graduate Advisees

Current Graduate Advisees

Justin BeslityJustin Beslity

  • Degree Sought: PHD
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Shaw
  • Area of Study: Coupled Natural and Human Systems

Hope MahonHope Mahon

  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Fierke and Shaw,s
  • Area of Study: Entomology
  • Undergraduate Institution: SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Wildlife Science)

Graduate Research Topic
Tick phenology and cold-hardiness of ticks, specifically the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis)

Favorite Quote
"Where instinct falls, intellect must venture." - Jim Butcher

Sara SchulkowskiSara Schulkowski

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