Director, Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental Watershed Research; Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
University of Maine
Dr. David Hart was captivated by streams and rivers as a small boy growing up in northern California; he presented his first public testimony about watershed management issues at the age of 17. As the Director of Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research at the University of Maine, he is helping to lead the Environmental Solutions Initiative. This new interdisciplinary program involves faculty from more than twenty University of Maine departments who are committed to working with government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to help search for, evaluate, and implement sustainable solutions to local and regional challenges. These research efforts and partnerships focus simultaneously on the intersecting societal needs for strong economies, robust communities, and a clean environment.
Dr. Hart’s broad interests in environmental science, technology and policy are focused in three interrelated areas. First, together with his students and postdoctoral fellows, he is examining the role played by flowing water as a master variable governing river ecosystems. He has collaborated with experts in biomechanics and hydraulic engineering to investigate the myriad effects of flow on ecosystem structure and function, as well as the complex ways in which human alterations of flow regimes affect river health. This research has ranged from studies of the microflow environments experienced by individual river organisms to analyses of ecosystem responses to multi-million dollar restoration programs in which dam operations have been modified to improve the health of degraded rivers.
More broadly, he is engaged in multidisciplinary research to increase the effectiveness of watershed management practices, including activities such as riparian restoration, dam removal, and the control of invasive species. For example, he and his colleagues are developing planning tools to quantify how the ecological benefits of different restoration and protection projects vary with their size and location within the watershed.
Dr. Hart is also working to maximize the usefulness of multidisciplinary environmental research by developing robust partnerships with key stakeholders involved in environmental decision-making. For example, he has worked with Fortune 500 companies, local and international environmental organizations, and numerous government agencies to identify and adopt more effective strategies for sustaining the planet’s life support systems. The Mitchell Center also serves as a forum for the discussion of controversial and complex environmental issues facing Maine and other regions.