Caylor Receives 2009 Early Career Hydrologic Sciences Award

Kelly K. Caylor received the 2009 Early Career Hydrologic Sciences Award at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting, held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for significant early contributions to hydrologic science.


caylor_kellyIt is a great pleasure to introduce Kelly Caylor, the first winner of the Early Career Hydrologic Sciences Award of AGU.

Kelly’s career has focused primarily on the spatiotemporal interactions between surface hydrologic dynamics and plant ecology, and particularly on dryland ecosystems. While the emerging science of ecohydrology promises to clarify the resilience of ecosystems to anthropogenic and climatic perturbations, it is predicated on coupling advances in the theory of ecological pattern formation to improved observation of hydrological processes. Kelly has been a leader in developing frameworks capable of interpreting and predicting spatial pattern formation in dryland ecosystems. He has carried out pioneering studies in the feedbacks between soil moisture, vegetation pattern, and community dynamics of savanna ecosystems. This research has demonstrated the decisive role that trees play in determining soil moisture dynamics and subsequent community composition across a regional climate gradient.

Refined theories and innovative modeling approaches are necessarily dependent on improved observations. Kelly has developed methods to estimate transpiration of trees using sap flux techniques, as well as characterizing the impact of land management and disturbance regimes on vegetation rooting patterns.

Kelly’s research focuses on developing a broad understanding of the coupling between hydrologic, ecological, geophysical, and biogeochemical processes in dryland ecosystems, and he has made a phenomenal start toward that goal. As one supporting letter stated, “Kelly is an extraordinary young scientist and I am sure there is no other eligible candidate more deserving of this award.” Another senior researcher wrote, “Kelly is a scientist in the classical sense, and not someone who is pigeon-holed as either a modeler or experimentalist. Based on this fundamental approach, I find his research to be very original, significant, and cutting-edge.”

I could not agree more. For his outstanding creativity and superb combination of theoretical, laboratory, and field experiments, and his outstanding original contributions to hydrology in the early stages of his career, it is a privilege to introduce Kelly K. Caylor, the winner of the first Early Career Hydrologic Sciences Award.

Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe, Princeton University, Princeton, N. J.


Thank you, Ignacio, for your kind remarks. I am honored to receive this award.

As with all early career awardees, I have been training to be an academic for longer than I have been one. So while Ignacio has spoken so generously about me, I would like to speak about some of the colleagues critical to my development as a young researcher.

The person who first encouraged me into a life in pursuit of knowledge was Hank Shugart, my undergraduate thesis advisor at University of Virginia and eventually my Ph.D. advisor as well. I thank Hank for everything he has done for me, especially his patience and encouragement during the many years we have worked together.

At Virginia, I learned from and worked with many other graduate students and faculty whom I greatly respect and admire. I especially thank fellow students Todd Scanlon, Vaughan Turekian, and Dan Druckenbrod, as well as faculty including John Albertson, Jose Fuentes, and Paolo D’Odorico. They all provided me with advice and support as well as inspiration through their examples.

My time at Princeton as a postdoc working with Ignacio was transformative, and the debt I owe him continually increases. Our offices at Princeton are adjacent, and so it is appropriate that this award will hang not only on my wall but also on his.

I have lately had the opportunity to move into new areas of research that are exciting but also critically important. Hydrology will play a considerable role in shaping the future of ecosystems under increasing pressure from climate change and land use intensification. I am excited to be part of this research and humbled by all that remains to be done. I am thankful to be joined by graduate students and postdocs who motivate me daily through their excellence and creativity.

I am deeply honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Early Career Hydrologic Sciences Award, and I thank AGU for its commitment to fostering a vibrant and collaborative environment in which young scientists may thrive.

Kelly K. Caylor, Princeton University, Princeton, N. J.