Turco appointed new director of Purdue Global Sustainability Institute in Discovery Park

February 17, 2015  

Turco carbonnano

Ron Turco - who has found that raw, non-functionalized, single-wall carbon nanotubes damage active microbiology in low-organic soils – has been named director of the Purdue Global Sustainability Institute. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Agronomy professor Ronald Turco, who has served as director of the Purdue Water Community since its inception in spring 2011, has been selected as the new director of the Purdue Global Sustainability Institute in Discovery Park.

Turco will serve two years as the director of GSI, guiding its mission to advance research and education for supporting the sustainability goals of communities, states and nations. He also has been appointed assistant dean of agricultural and environmental research for the College of Agriculture.

The appointments are effective immediately, Alan Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park and senior associate vice president for research at Purdue, announced Tuesday (Feb. 17).

"Under Professor Turco's direction, faculty, students and other researchers from across disciplinary borders will work with the GSI research centers focused on food security, climate change, energy, access to clean water and energy security to advance innovative solutions to the various and often interrelated efforts these grand challenges reflect," said Rebar, who has served as interim director of GSI since 2013.

Beginning with Turco and moving forward, GSI directors will be selected from among the existing Discovery Park center directors in GSI - the Energy, Environment, Water, Climate Change and Global Food Security centers, Rebar said.

In his role as assistant dean for the College of Agriculture, Turco will work with faculty to address critical challenges for Indiana in water quality and soil health. He will utilize the statewide network of extension educators to serve statewide needs and help improve water and soil health in local communities.

A faculty member in the College of Agriculture since 1985, Turco has focused his research on understanding how the behavior of microorganisms and the processes they control in natural systems is influenced by human activity. 

GSI coordinates research efforts in sustainability challenges such as climate change, energy, food security, the environment and water. Through his role as director of the Purdue Water Community, he has facilitated water-related research, teaching, and engagement to improve and sustain human and ecosystem health.

"Sustainability of our planet is a global grand challenge that will only be overcome through the input of scholars from many diverse disciplines," said Jay Akridge, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture at Purdue. "Professor Turco's many years as a researcher and faculty member guiding interdisciplinary teams will help position Purdue to serve to improve the world in which we live."

Turco, a member of the Gamma Sigma Delta Agricultural Honor Society since 2005, is a recipient of the Purdue Seed for Success Award in 2012, College of Agriculture Team Award for his turfgrass efforts, the Mid-America CropLife Association Indiana's Water Guardian Award, the William G. Wilber Award, the John S. Zogorski Leadership Award from the Indiana Water Resources Association and most recently, The Spirit of Land Gant award for the university.

"Over the last 30 years, Purdue has provided me a series of opportunities to work with a great set of faculty colleagues on an ever-changing array of important environmental problems," Turco said. "As a result, the GSI and its component centers are well-positioned for major advances in addressing all aspects of environmental sustainability and resilience."

Turco's research group has used enzyme activity, phospholipid analysis, and molecular techniques to understand community structure and function as impacted by management and introduction of materials.

Early efforts concentrated on the fate of pesticides and organics in soil systems and the use of similar approaches led to some of the earliest work on the environmental impacts of nanomaterials. Recent studies have been looking at the underlying biological processes controlling soil health.

His work on environmental pathogens led to the development of EPI-Net.org, an award-winning U.S. Department of Agriculture national facilitation project. In addition, Turco teaches two graduate level courses - Soil Microbiology and Biodegradation and Bioremediation - and an undergraduate course on Soil Ecology.

Turco received a bachelor's degree in soil science and bacteriology from the University of Idaho and his doctoral degree in soil microbiology from Washington State University.

The Purdue Water Community, launched in 2011, is facilitating water-related interdisciplinary research, teaching and engagement to improve and sustain human and ecosystem health. As an integral part of GSI, the Discovery Park center located in Mann Hall also is building on Purdue's research strengths in monitoring, modeling and systems.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Alan Rebar, 765-496-6625, rebar@purdue.edu

Ron Turco, 765-494-8077, rturco@purdue.edu 

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