This spring, SoMAS Professor Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz was one of ten SUNY professors appointed to the rank of Distinguished Service Professor. The honor recognizes substantial distinguished service not only within SUNY, but also at the community, state, national, and international levels. It is a rank above that of full professor and this promotion can be conferred solely by the State University of New York Board of Trustees.

Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz

Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz

Dr. Bokuniewicz–who has been part of SoMAS for over 30 years–studies the behavior of coastal sedimentary systems and coastal groundwater hydrology. He earned his Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University and has devoted his career to solving difficult environmental problems and educating the public about coastal issues.

“Professor Bokuniewicz is a truly extraordinary individual who has served as an outstanding ambassador for Stony Brook University,” wrote Dr. Robert Aller, also a Distinguished Professor from SoMAS, in his letter nominating Dr. Bokuniewicz for the award.

Long Island communities have benefitted from Dr. Bokuniewicz’s research on issues of concern to coastal residents, including his work on beach erosion, rip current generation, and transport of sediment. “Contamination problems, the stability of beaches, and the availability of potable groundwater are issues important to all coastal communities,” said Dr. Bokuniewicz. “Research on these issues transcends region. While each coastal problem has its unique aspects, what we learn about these processes at one site can help us craft solutions for similar sites across the globe.”

“Through research that engages the international scientific community, Stony Brook University plays a unique role in connecting Long Island to other parts of the nation and the world,” said Dr. Bokuniewicz, who has fostered this connection through his involvement in multiple international groundwater projects, including research projects in Venice, Mauritius (Indian Ocean), Mallorca (Mediterranean Sea), Barbados, and Guam.

Local, regional, and global organizations routinely seek Dr. Bokuniewicz’s advice on technical and scientific matters. As director of the Long Island Groundwater Research Institute, Dr. Bokuniewicz leads an effort to accelerate the use of University research in practical applications. “We are constantly in contact with water suppliers and regulators, both to bring their attention to relevant research being done at Stony Brook, and to try to make our faculty members aware of the most recent local problems.”

New York’s Central Pine Barrens have also benefitted from Dr. Bokuniewicz’s expertise. He has served as a member of the Pine Barrens Advisory Committee since New York State created the 100,000 acre Central Pine Barrens Preserve in 1993. He helped draft the original Land Use Plan to protect the region and is currently engaged in updating this plan. As a member of the Advisory Committee, he organizes the Pine Barrens Research Forum, an annual event that brings together scientists from across the globe whose research–on topics ranging from historical land use patterns to community ecology–informs the management of the Pine Barren’s natural resources.

Dr. Bokuniewicz serves on several Long Island based committees, including the Town of Brookhaven’s Open Space Bond Acquisition Board and the National Parks Service Science Board for Jamaica Bay. He also serves as Chair of Suffolk County’s Groundwater Guardian Team.

At SoMAS, Dr. Bokuniewicz teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses, including, among others, a course on waves, tides, and beaches; a course entitled “Long Island Sound: Science and Use” that he co-teaches with Bob Cerrato; and an engineering geology course that he co-teaches with Teng-Fong Wong from the Department of Geosciences. He also regularly teaches on-line courses on Long Island beaches and Long Island groundwater for School of Professional Development.

Throughout his career, Dr. Bokuniewicz has mentored forty graduate students and helped them embark on successful research careers. “I like to tell graduate students they will likely go through three stages while they are digging into their research. At first they will think nobody knows anything about the problem they want to explore. Then, they will dig a little deeper and think everybody knows everything about this issue and their research can’t possibly make a difference. The last stage is when they dig even deeper, and again realize that nobody truly knows anything. That’s when you’re truly doing research.”

“Dr. Bokuniewicz has been extremely active at all levels of public service and has made enormous contributions within his discipline, in student mentoring and teaching, and through his professional activities” said SoMAS Dean Dr. David Conover. “We congratulate him on his well-deserved honor.”

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