Media Tip Sheet: CSU experts available to discuss Animas River mine spill

The following experts are available to discuss a variety of topics related to the mine waste spill that has impacted the Animas River in southwestern Colorado. These experts are available for media interviews; this list is not intended to serve as public contact information. For more information or to contact a Colorado State University expert on any of the following topics, call the communications coordinator listed for each expert.

The Animas River turned yellow after spill. Photo by Bill Cotton
The Animas River turned yellow after the Aug. 5 spill. Photo by Bill Cotton

Environmental management of disasters

Melinda Laituri is a professor of geography in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability who works on environmental justice issues using geospatial technologies. Laituri has spent the last year at the U.S. State Department working with the Humanitarian Information Unit. Her research addresses issues related to environmental management and long-term solutions to critical issues related to disasters of all types. To speak with Laituri, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Aquatic ecology and ecotoxicology
Will Clements, professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, is an expert in aquatic ecology and ecotoxicology. His research has focused on how aquatic organisms respond to human-caused stress and damage to the rivers they live in. Clements is currently the president of the board of directors of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. To speak with Clements, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

EPA’s risk assessment process for water contamination
William Farland, a professor in CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for 27 years. The former vice president for research at CSU can discuss the EPA’s risk assessment process for water contamination and related issues. He currently serves as senior advisor to the provost and executive vice president at CSU. To speak with Farland, contact Jeff Dodge at 970-491-4251 or

Mine-related water contamination problems
Howard Ramsdell, a toxicologist in CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, can discuss mine-related water contamination problems. His work has included investigations of metal’s effects in fish, birds and livestock as well as drinking water issues. Ramsdell has been involved in three projects related to the Summitville Mine Superfund site. To speak with Ramsdell, contact Jeff Dodge at 970-491-4251 or

Long-term environmental impacts of mining

John Ridley, professor of Geosciences, has worldwide experience studying ores. He has studied the mineralogy and chemistry of historic mines and natural acid-rock drainage to understand the long-term environmental impacts of mining. To speak with Ridley, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Restoration of terrestrial ecosystems and mine reclamation

Mark Paschke, professor in CSU’s Forest and Rangeland Stewardship Department and the director of the Restoration Ecology Lab, is an expert in terrestrial ecological restoration of disturbed ecosystems and mine reclamation. To speak with Paschke, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Economic impact

Economics professors Martin Shields and Stephan Weiler can discuss the possible economic impacts of the spill. Shields is director of the Regional Economics Institute, and his research specialties include growth and inequality as well as regional economic growth. Weiler, who is research associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts at CSU, is founding research director for the Colorado Innovation Report and specializes in regional economic growth and development. To speak with Shields or Weiler, contact Jeff Dodge at 970-491-4251 or

CSU Extension in La Plata County

Darrin Parmenter is the CSU Extension director for La Plata County. His Extension education efforts focus on home and commercial horticulture, leading the Master Gardener Program and working with the area’s new and established farming and agricultural enterprises. Parmenter is active in local food systems, agricultural awareness, regional food distribution networks and backyard food production. To speak with Parmenter, please contact Joanne Littlefield at (970) 491-4640 or

Water quality

Professor of Watershed Science John Stednick’s expertise includes the effects of natural disturbances and human influences on water resources quantity and quality. Stednick’s current interests include forest hydrology, water quality hydrology, biogeochemistry, hydrometry, heavy metal chemistry and transport, risk assessment, watershed analysis, environmental impact assessment and technology transfer. To speak with Stednick, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Impact of trace elements and organic contaminants in soils

Thomas Borch, associate professor of Soil and Crop Sciences with a focus on Environmental Soil Chemistry, is an expert on determining the impact of trace elements and organic contaminants in soils. He has examined the impact of pharmaceutical micropollutants and their metabolites on surface water and he has begun work to identify the potential environmental impact of hydraulic fracking. To speak with Borch, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Impact of human disturbance on soils

Gene Kelly, professor of Soil and Crop Sciences, is an expert on the impact of human disturbance – cultivation, mining, agriculture, energy development – on soils. To speak with Kelly, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Water resources in Colorado’s Western Region

Perry Cabot is a water resources specialist in the Western Region for Colorado State Extension and a faculty affiliate of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has researched a wide variety of areas, including agricultural and urban water conservation, water education programs and water quality issues focusing on salinity and nutrients. To speak with Cabot, please contact Joanne Littlefield at (970) 491-4640 or

Colorado Water Institute
Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute and chair of the CSU Water Center, can talk about water quality, Colorado water law, administration and policy, drought impacts, water conservation, Colorado water uses and needs, and agricultural water use. His broad research interests have included irrigation water optimization in water-limited environments, conjunctive management of surface and ground water, evaluation of municipal water conservation programs, development of best-management practices for crop production and evaluation of groundwater vulnerability and sensitivity to contamination. To speak with Waskom, contact Jim Beers at (970) 491-2332 or

Agriculture economy

James Pritchett has served as an Extension economist and applied researcher examining issues important to Colorado agriculture. He can discuss how the spill may impact the agriculture economy of the area. Most recently, Pritchett has focused on water resources. He also has researched whether crop insurance is an effective risk management tool for dryland wheat farmers, the economics of animal disease, the relative “friendliness” of state policies toward agribusiness, and creating business plans for small- and medium-sized businesses. He received his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota. He holds a faculty appointment as professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University. To speak with Pritchett, contact Jim Beers at (970) 491-2332 or

Environmental remediation

Charles Shackelford, professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has 28 years of experience pertaining to the geoenvironmental aspects of waste management and environmental remediation. He is a registered professional Civil Engineer in California and Colorado, and has served as an expert on waste disposal issues on numerous occasions for private companies and federal agencies. Shackelford’s research is focused primarily on evaluating flow and transport of hazardous liquids and contaminants through soil and geosynthetic containment barriers, such as compacted clay liners (CCLs) and geosynthetic clay liners (CCLs), commonly used in geoenvironmental containment applications (e.g., landfills, surface impoundments, lagoons, secondary containment of above-grade fuel storage tanks, etc.), as well as through soil-bentonite (SB) vertical cutoff walls used for in situ control and containment of polluted groundwater. To speak with Shackelford, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Behavior of tailings and mine waste
Christopher Bareither, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has expertise is in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. His current research interests include mechanical properties of geomaterials; physical, chemical, and biological behavior of bioreactor landfills; scale effects in field- and laboratory-scale experimentation; behavior of tailings and mine waste; and sustainable solutions to geo-engineering problems with an emphasis on engineering challenges in development communities. To speak with Bareither, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or

Impact on native people in the region
Tyrone Smith, director of CSU’s Native American Cultural Center, can discuss the possible impacts that the spill will have on native people in the region. Smith, who has family in the Durango area, leads efforts in recruitment, retention, graduation and community outreach to create a supportive environment based on the traditions and cultures of Native Americans. To speak with Smith, contact Jeff Dodge at 970-491-4251 or

Sociological impact of disasters

Lori Peek is co-director of CSU’s Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis and can discuss the sociological impacts of natural disasters. Peek, an associate professor of sociology, studies vulnerable populations in disaster, with an emphasis on the experiences of low-income families, racial and ethnic minorities, women and children. To speak with Peek, contact Jeff Dodge at 970-491-4251 or