NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Rutgers Board of Governors has appointed Richard G. Lathrop Jr., professor of environmental monitoring and restoration ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, as the inaugural holder of the new Johnson Family Chair in Water Resources and Watershed Ecology. The announcement of the endowed chair and Lathrop’s appointment to a five-year term was made at the board’s meeting in Camden.Besides his teaching responsibilities, Lathrop, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, is the faculty director of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. Spanning over 350 acres, the preserve features several headwater streams that feed into the Raritan River and numerous public hiking and biking trails. He also directs the Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, whose mission is to promote the development and application of geospatial information science and technology to address issues in the environment, natural resources and agriculture.
As the Johnson Family Chair, Lathrop will lead an interdisciplinary program to study how human activities in upland watersheds affect downstream aquatic ecosystems and how that knowledge can be applied to promote restoration and better stewardship of water resources.
“As the Johnson Family Chair, one of my keystone projects will be to co-lead the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative,” said Lathrop, who lives in Bridgewater. “The initiative works with various stakeholders in the watershed to balance social, economic and environmental objectives toward the common goal of restoring the Raritan River, its tributaries and its estuary for current and future generations.
“My objective will be to ensure that Rutgers University’s scientific, policy and technical expertise is brought to bear to address issues of critical significance to the Raritan River Watershed.”
Three charitable organizations founded by John Seward Johnson, a son of Robert Wood Johnson who co-founded the Johnson & Johnson health care company, committed $1.5 million toward the endowed faculty position that was matched by an anonymous donor. The Johnson Family Chair is funded by The Cape Branch Foundation, led by longtime Rutgers benefactors James L. and Gretchen W. Johnson. James L. Johnson is the son of John Seward Johnson and Gretchen Johnson is a Douglass College alumna. The Cape Branch Foundation’s commitment to the endowed chair is supported by other Johnson family members through The River Branch Foundation and the J. Seward Johnson Sr. 1963 Charitable Trust.
“The establishment of this endowed chair is one of the most significant in recent Rutgers history,” said Robert Goodman, executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “It aligns the Johnson Family’s passionate commitments to environmental education and restoration of the Raritan watershed with the singular role of Rutgers as a home of world-class research in restoration ecology and water resources.
“Rick brings the whole package to this position. He’s a gifted educator, a research scholar of uncommon breadth and someone who knows as few do what it takes to translate knowledge into actionable public policy,” Goodman said.
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