Avner Vengosh Elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America

July 12, 2015

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

DURHAM, N.C. – Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has been elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA).

GSA fellowships are awarded annually to scientists who have been recognized by their peers as making significant contributions to the field of geology through published research, public outreach, and the training of graduate students. This year, 73 scientists were elected as Fellows.

In selecting Vengosh for the honor, the GSA cited his “research contributions in isotope and environmental geochemistry, including seminal studies in the area of energy development and water quality” and his role as “an innovator in methodological development of boron isotope measurements and their use in solving hydrogeochemical and environmental problems.”

A prolific researcher with more than 100 peer-reviewed studies to his credit, Vengosh is widely cited for his groundbreaking development of isotopic “fingerprinting” technologies that allow scientists to identify and measure water contaminants and track them to their source.

His research has played a central role in assessing – and helping find solutions to – potential risks to water resources posed by a wide range of causes, including salinization; coal ash residue; oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing; oil and gas wastewater disposal; agricultural contamination; and mountaintop coal mining runoff.  

As part of his team’s research on the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing, they have collected and analyzed more than 1,000 water samples from drinking water wells and surface water in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, California and North Dakota.

Vengosh has also used his forensic tracers to identify the sources of natural radioactivity in groundwater supplies in the Middle East and radon in groundwater in the southeastern United States, and to identify links between naturally occurring water contaminants, local geology and human health in Ethiopia, Morocco and Vietnam.

A study he led identifying high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in shale gas wastewater was named the best science paper of 2013 by the editors of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Another study, providing the first comprehensive review of potential risks to water resources posed by unconventional shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, was selected as one of the best peer-reviewed studies of 2014 by the editors of the same journal.

In recognition of his expertise, Vengosh has twice been invited to testify before Congress on the water-quality impacts of coal ash contamination.