January 31, 2008

Organization for hydrologists relocating to SIUC

by Tim Crosby

Rolando Bravo
CARBONDALE, Ill. — A leading organization for hydrologists is moving its headquarters to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the home of its new executive director.

Rolando Bravo, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering at SIUC, is the new executive director of the American Institute of Hydrology (AIH). Bravo assumed the leadership of the international organization this month after a vote by the group's executive committee.

Along with Bravo's new position, the group also agreed to move its headquarters to SIUC. Bravo said having the organization based at SIUC will bring prestige and more students to the College of Engineering and particularly the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The initial length of the arrangement is five years, meaning SIUC will be an epicenter of the hydrology and water resources field at least through 2012.

"Having the AIH based here is a credit to our department," Bravo said. "It will attract students, especially graduate students in the area of water resources. When a student learns we have this here, it gives us even more credibility. They find there is not only an excellent University here, but an institute focused specifically on their field."

Founded in 1981, the AIH strives to enhance and strengthen the standing of hydrology as a science and profession by establishing standards and procedures for certifying surface, ground and water quality hydrologists. It also emphasizes ethics, training and education and cooperation with government and the public in matters related to the profession.

The organization certifies its members based on professional and academic credentials. An AIH committee will award such certification only after a thorough review of such credentials, Bravo said. In some cases, those who apply for certification must pass a series of written examinations to achieve it. It is the only national organization that certifies qualified professionals in all fields of hydrology and has only about 750 members worldwide.

"This is an institution that certifies professional hydrologists. You don't just pay your fees and be a member. You have to be certified," Bravo said. "As a group, we want to focus on academic and professional credentials.

"When you graduate from a university, you may earn a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering and then get a license, but that license is still very general," he explained. "The AIH is one more step after your license. It is a terminal certification."

The organization previously had its office in Atlanta. Bravo said he pursued the executive directorship because he believes SIUC could provide a strong base of operations for the group, based on the strong engineering programs at the University.

At SIUC, the college will provide some office space and the AIH will pay for an assistant for Bravo. He, along with the AIH board, will control its budget and set priorities and its overall direction and strategy going forward. SIUC also might play host to AIH board meetings.

In his role as executive director, Bravo will provide general management, public relations, staff training, dues collections and membership communications. He also will help organize committees, examinations, conferences and other events as needed.

Along with the notoriety and student recruitment boost, Bravo said housing the AIH offices will likely improve research grant opportunities for hydrology students and faculty, as they can note their close proximity to this important resources in grant applications.

Bravo has previously served as chair of the board of registration for AIH, which reviews certification applications, and as vice president of international affairs. He hopes to increase recruiting efforts abroad, building a larger base of qualified international hydrologists and ensuring the profession remains highly regarded throughout the world.

The organization publishes an annual journal, holds conferences and holds an annual meeting, which Bravo will coordinate.