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Water, soil researcher Kent Keller named director of School of the Environment

Kent Keller, newly named director of the School of the Environment, studies the critical zone, the life-sustaining skin of Earth where rock meets air and water (Seth Truscott/WSU photo).

Kent Keller, professor and Fellow of the Geological Society of America, has been named director of the School of the Environment at Washington State University.

A WSU researcher and teacher since 1988, Keller began his career studying geological processes deep under the Earth. Today he studies the Critical Zone, the vital skin of Earth where rock meets air and water to support life.

“It’s funny, some people go deeper in the course of their career, but my interests have become more shallow,” he laughed. “I’m talking, of course, about the depth of the Earth’s crust.”

Faculty in the School of the Environment work on many challenges affecting our living world, from climate change and the water supply to salmon survival and erosion.

“Tackling these challenges requires people working together across disciplines,” Keller said. “We’ve got great opportunities to do that here.”

“There’s amazing potential to enlarge the scope of our understanding, and the problems we set out to solve,” he added. “That’s what attracted me to the job.”

As director, Keller will lead efforts to grow the school’s popular undergraduate programs in environmental science, wildlife ecology, forestry, and Earth science, while encouraging collaboration by students and faculty. Every undergraduate in the School joins cross-disciplinary courses, such as geology and management of natural resources.

“Students learn about each other’s interests, so they not only develop career skills but also a broader perspective,” Keller said. “We want them to go beyond their boundaries.”

The School of the Environment is one of the few programs at WSU that is part of two colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Classes are taught at four WSU campuses—Pullman, Vancouver, Tri-Cities, and the Global Campus—and at research centers around the state, including Wenatchee and Puyallup.

A current member and former co-director of the WSU Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach, Keller is a member of the State of Washington Water Research Center and the National Scientific Steering Committee of the National Science Foundation-funded Critical Zone Observatory. He is also a task force member of WSU’s Long-Term Agroecosystem Research program, which studies land resources over decades.

“Kent is an experienced researcher, a respected teacher, and a valued colleague,” said Daryll DeWald, dean of the WSU College of Arts and Sciences. “His understanding of the unique opportunities and challenges afforded by a multi-campus, dual-college organization will help to strengthen the impact of faculty, staff and students across the WSU system and the natural environment.”

“We appreciate Kent’s commitment to the school and look forward to having him as part of the leadership team for both colleges,” added CAHNRS Dean Ron Mittelhammer.

Appointed on October 1, Keller succeeds Larry Hufford, professor of biological sciences, who served as interim director of the school for 16 months.

  • Learn more about the School of the Environment here.

Media Contact

Kent Keller, Director, WSU School of the Environment
509-335-3040