2020 O.E. Meinzer Award

Presented to William W. Woessner

William W. Woessner

William W. Woessner
University of Montana


Citation by Mary P. Anderson

William Warren Woessner—Bill—receives the 2020 Meinzer Award for groundbreaking, innovative, and highly cited work on the hyporheic zone, virus transport, and the occurrence/transport of pharmaceutical chemicals in groundwater.

Bill is a leader in research on the hyporheic zone—the topic of three of his Meinzer papers. In Woessner (2000), he uses generic models to show that groundwater interactions with streams occur at the scale of the floodplain as well as the channel-bed and that both groundwater recharge and discharge occur within stream reaches typically characterized as losing or gaining. In Poole et al. (2008), Bill and co-authors show that variations in channel morphology induce flow paths that spiral across ecotones and connect stream ecosystems. Those papers were touchpoints for tracing groundwater-surface water exchange, and for assessing both contaminant reactions at the groundwater-surface water interface and controls on fish habitat. Woessner (2017) provides a concise yet comprehensive review of the science of the hyporheic zone.

In DeBorde et al. (1998), Bill and co-authors describe one of the earliest field studies to trace viral transport over time and distances useful for public health applications. Their work, which shows that viruses are transported over relatively long distances and survive for relatively long periods of time in the subsurface, formed the basis for methods to determine the risk of virus transport to drinking water wells.

Godfrey et al. (2007) set the framework for methods to explore the fate, transport, and risk of pharmaceuticals in groundwater. They show that measurable concentrations of pharmaceuticals enter groundwater from waste disposal sites, survive geobiochemical attenuation, and thus are useful indicators of sewage effluent in groundwater.

Bill has received many awards and honors and has a distinguished record of service. He is known for his humor and camaraderie, and generosity in research.


Response by William W. Woessner

Thank you, Mary, for your citation, you are a valued friend, co-author, and colleague. I am honored accept the Geological Society of America Hydrogeology Division’s 2020 O.E. Meinzer Award. The collection of papers cited in the nomination covers a broad range of topics. They frame my diverse career as the sole hydrogeologist at the University of Montana. My research accomplishments reflect my ability to talk folks much smarter than me to collaborate on projects that initially I usually didn’t know too much about, but I recognized as important. This included colleagues in my department, like Johnnie Moore, faculty in other departments and colleagues at outside universities in fields like geochemistry, microbiology, river ecology, trace organic chemistry, and karst hydrology. My research and publications also always involved a cadre of graduate students.

I have been mentored along the way by professors Charles Moke and James Roche at the College of Wooster; Marty Mifflin , my University of Florida MS professor and later a colleague at DRI; Dave Stephenson, Mary Anderson and Herb Wang at the University of Wisconsin; Bob Farvolden and John Cherry, and their colleagues and graduate students at the University of Waterloo and Guelph. One of my pivotal professional experiences was spending a year on sabbatical at the University of Waterloo in 1989-1990. I was exposed to innovative research, creative methods and made lifelong professional friends and connections.

Trying to understand the hydrogeology behind reports of 3 cm long macroinvertebrates being pump from wells, conducting a tracer test with viruses at initial concentrations of 1010 PFU per milliliter, identifying antiseizure drugs in groundwater downgradient of septic systems ,observing hyporheic water moving though river bars that altered water temperatures, and attempting to promote the hydrogeologist’s role in stream investigations has been one hell of a ride. I thank the University of Montana, and my wife Jean and the family for supporting my teaching and research.

I also recognize Mary Anderson and Randy Hunt, as two valued colleagues who were also “talked into” creating texts with me on groundwater modeling. I encourage all our division member to reach out to colleagues regionally and internationally to form teams to address translational challenges in hydrogeology. I recommend those of you just entering the field to make international connections early on and expand them throughout your career.

My professional work recently has focused on the Groundwater Project, GW-project.org, spearheaded by our colleague John Cherry, 1985 Meinzer recipient. Its goal is to publish groundwater educational materials that are free, online, and available worldwide. This herculean efforted is underway and members of this division are participating. Hopefully, if you are not engaged in this work you could be “talked into” contributing your expertise to the effort.

The Hydrogeology Division is my professional home. I always look forward to the annual program and all those sidebar discussions on research, colleagues, teaching, and students. Thank you for recognizing my contributions with the O.E. Meinzer Award.