Richard Palmer, the head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the university director of the Northeast Climate Science Center, has been elected to the grade of Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). As the ASCE letter to announce the honor said in part, “You will also be interested to know that, prior to this year's election of nine new Distinguished Members, only 688 civil engineers in the 165-year history of ASCE have been similarly honored, and there are only 228 Distinguished Members among the Society’s current membership of over 150,000 people.”
As a message from College of Engineering Dean Tim Anderson said to Palmer about his accomplishment, “Let me again congratulate you on this rarified distinction. That is 0.15 percent of the current members with this honor. From my observations, it is well deserved. Your humility is evident, but you should take considerable satisfaction in this recognition by your peers.”
Professor Palmer noted that “Awards such as these, particularly in my case, reflect the contributions of my mentors, colleagues (past and present) and students (past and present), in somewhat equal parts, in addition to my own. I have been fortunate to work with many outstanding faculty and students, at the University of Washington and at UMass Amherst, all of whom have contributed to my career. Without the support of these people, my accomplishments would be meager and my CV would be very short indeed.”
Palmer broadly defined his primary research area of interest as evaluating the impacts of climate change on water resources. “This includes drought planning, real-time water resource management, and the application of decision support to civil engineering management problems,” he explained. “In all cases, I attempt to apply structured planning approaches. I helped develop the field of ‘shared vision modeling’ in water resources planning and pioneered the use of ‘virtual drought exercises.’”
Palmer received his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1979, his M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1973, and his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Lamar University. During his Ph.D. research he was a member of a team at Johns Hopkins University and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin that was recognized as a finalist by ASCE for Engineering Achievement of the Year in 1983.
Palmer has also earned many other honors. He received the Best Practice-Oriented Paper of the Year in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management by the ASCE in 1989. He was awarded the Huber Award for Research Excellence by ASCE in 1992, an honor based upon his innovative application of simulation and optimization techniques to issues in water resource management. He was awarded the “Certificate of Recognition” for his editorial services to the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management of ASCE in 1997.
More recently, Palmer received the “Service to the Profession” Award from the Water Resources Planning and Management Division of ASCE in 1998. In 2006, he received the Julian Hinds Award from ASCE for his contributions to water resources planning and his research related to the impacts of climate change on water resources. In 2014, he was elected as a Fellow of ASCE. In addition, Palmer was a Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at UMass Amherst in 2014 and a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Awardee in 2015-2016
Palmer currently receives research funding from the U.S. Department of Interior, NOAA, the Nature Conservancy, Water Research Foundation, and a variety of public utilities. He is also active in ASCE’s Environmental and Water Resources Institute and was the technical chairman of one of ASCE’s 2010 national congresses. (April 2017)