Randall Etheridge receives ECU’s Coastal Scholar Award

Dr. Randall Etheridge, center, assistant professor in East Carolina University’s Department of Engineering, stands with interim chancellor Dr. Ron Mitchelson, left, and Mike Van Scott, interim vice chancellor for ECU’s Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, after receiving the Coastal Scholar Award. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

Dr. Randall Etheridge, assistant professor in East Carolina University’s Department of Engineering, received the Coastal Scholar Award from the ECU Coastal-Maritime Council (CMC) during the university’s fourth annual Research and Scholarship Awards on March 2.

The award honors outstanding scholarship contributing to knowledge, understanding and improvement of physical, biological and human systems of the coastal environment. It recognizes faculty for intellectual merit, including the creation of quality scholarly publications, as well as broader impacts on student educational experiences or on residents and stakeholders in coastal regions.

Etheridge teaches environmental engineering courses and core engineering courses in the College of Engineering and Technology. His recent research has focused on flooding and water quality issues of Lake Mattamuskeet and its impact on the surrounding area.

He is also part of a team of researchers that is looking at the impacts of sea level rise on rural communities. The group, which also includes the Department of Anthropology and the Coastal Studies Institute, received a two-year, $299,454 grant from the National Science Foundation to explore and design possible solutions to flooding in the Lake Mattamuskeet area and to develop a process with community input that could then be used to help other similar areas dealing with the effects of sea level rise.

Etheridge’s research interests also include agricultural and ecological engineering, with a goal of increasing the sustainability of the agriculture industry by reducing water use and improving the water quality leaving agricultural operations. Etheridge and Dr. Natasha Bell are serving as co-faculty advisors for a senior capstone project designed to help Greenville Utilities improve its method of handling tertiary treated effluent — or water — from the wastewater treatment plant. The goals are to help wildlife, benefit the environment and extend the life of the plant, thus delaying the need for what would be costly upgrades.

Etheridge stands with Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology.

Last month, Etheridge was named one of 10 New Faces of 2020 by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Created in 2004, the ECU Coastal-Maritime Council is comprised of 21 members from academic and research units across the university. Its purpose is to organize, plan and coordinate coastal and maritime research and educational programs across disciplines and across departments.  The objective is to bring social, economic and natural scientists together to address complex scientific questions concerning the physical, biological and human systems of the coastal environment.

The Research and Scholarship Awards annually recognize top faculty researchers. ECU researchers set new productivity benchmarks in 2019, setting all-time records in sponsored awards, research awards, interdisciplinary awards and research proposals submitted.

The university continued its rise in the National Science Foundation’s annual Higher Education Research and Development Survey (HERD), moving up 17 spots in the survey’s public school ranking list. The survey ranks nearly every aspect of research productivity for more than 600 American colleges and universities, including research sponsored by federal agencies, state and local governments, industry and non-governmental organizations.

ECU was ranked fourth in the UNC system in research expenditures based on the HERD rankings.

– By Ken Buday