Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute Names New Director

Jason Unrine
Jason Unrine's appointment as Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute director began July 1, 2022.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 5, 2022) — Jason Unrine, Ph.D., has been named director of the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute (KWRRI) at the University of Kentucky. 

Unrine joined the UK faculty in 2008 and is a professor and University Research Professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. He has been engaged in environmental research for more than 25 years and focuses on the environmental chemistry and toxicology of trace elements, engineered nanomaterials, and disinfection byproducts in ecosystems, drinking water and wastewater.

In recent years, he has focused on community-based participatory research methods, which have been central to his research on drinking water disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in Eastern Kentucky. With funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Unrine is working with community partners in Martin and Letcher counties to study patterns of exposure to DBPs, which have been linked to urinary tract cancers and birth defects.

“Our research aims to identify factors influencing formation of and exposure to DBPs and engage with stakeholders to help develop solutions to reduce DBP exposure. A key element of this research involves citizen science to help determine exposure characteristics at the level of the individual household,” Unrine said. 

Unrine has served on the leadership of research centers supported by the NIEHS, National Science Foundation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

KWRRI is one of 12 multidisciplinary centers and institutes that fall under the organizational structure of the Vice President for Research. “Dr. Unrine’s community-focused research portfolio and his leadership within the UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences testify that the KWRRI is in good hands. I am confident he will effectively lead teams inside our university and across our state seeking solutions for Kentucky’s most pressing water-related issues,” said Lisa Cassis, Ph.D., vice president for research.

KWRRI is part of a nationwide association of 54 federally authorized water resource institutes and centers located at land-grant universities. KWRRI serves as an important link between water-related personnel at academic institutions, government agencies and in the private sector and is designated by the EPA as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. KWRRI manages a wide variety of research projects, provides technical support to its stakeholders, and educates and trains the next generation of water resource experts.

The institute was established in 1964. Since 2004, Lindell Ormsbee, Ph.D., a professor of civil engineering, has served as director. Unrine’s appointment as KWRRI director began July 1, 2022.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.