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Stark named director of Washington Stormwater Center

john-starkPUYALLUP, Wash. – John Stark, a Washington State University professor and ecotoxicologist, has worn two hats over the past decade as he led both the WSU Research and Extension Center in Puyallup and the Washington Stormwater Center.

The stormwater center was created in 2010 with the support and financial backing of the Washington State Legislature and several pivotal foundations, including the Boeing Company, Bullitt Foundation and Russell Family Foundation.

Stark, a tireless advocate for stormwater research, has been at the forefront of the national conversation about the effects of polluted stormwater on sentinel species including salmon and other aquatic organisms.  Under his leadership, the center added the new low-impact development (LID) research facility, where permeable pavements, bioretention systems, and rain gardens help researchers understand how runoff affects the urban environment. Stark also oversaw the addition of the new aquatic toxicology lab, and recruited faculty including Dr. Jenifer McIntyre, an aquatic ecotoxicologist who works to protect salmon from toxic runoff.

“Stormwater research is one of the grand challenges we need to address in the coming decade,” Stark said. “It is an honor and a privilege to focus solely on this work.  It allows me to put all my effort into helping our researchers solve water management challenges and protect our water quality.”

As full-time director, Stark’s leadership is needed to guide a five-year, $3.5 million WSU Grand Challenge project developing green stormwater infrastructure to save energy and provide clean water for people and fish.

WSU created the Grand Challenges in 2016 to focus the university’s research and innovation on critical national and global problems. Grand Challenge funding allows the center to seek designation as a Center of Excellence from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Stormwater Grand Challenge includes three permanent faculty positions, an ecosystem scholar, an Extension economist that works on water issues, and a biogeochemist and microbiologist who works on microbe communities that break down stormwater pollutants.

Through the grant, WSU experts will build knowledge to transform stormwater management and find solutions that minimize the impact of human behavior on finite natural resources.

“John is a true champion of the Stormwater Center,” said Ron Mittelhammer, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “By focusing his leadership efforts, John will help provide cleaner, safer communities and a healthier environment for every Washington resident who depends on water—which means all of us.”

Tatum Weed, Associate Director of the Puyallup REC, will assist in Stark’s transition to the full-time Director of the Stormwater Center. A new assistant director will also be recruited to support the Stormwater Center.

Recruitment and transition to a new director at the WSU Puyallup REC is expected to be complete by July 1, 2017.

News media contacts:

  • John Stark, Director, Washington Stormwater Center; (253) 445-4568,
  • Marta Coursey, Director of Communication, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences; (509) 335-2806,

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