John Tracy, Ph.D., director of the Texas Water Resources Institute, has been appointed as interim head of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, effective Sept. 1. His appointment follows the Aug. 31 retirement of Steve Searcy, Ph.D., who has served with distinction in the role since 2012.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve biological and agricultural engineering students, staff, faculty and alumni as department head for the coming year,” Tracy said. “Creating sustainable agricultural systems and improving food security are critical challenges for our country and our world. I believe the department’s education, extension and research programs are well-positioned to develop the innovative solutions and technologies needed.”
Tracy is a preeminent researcher and an accomplished administrator. For two decades, Tracy has led many successful initiatives that connected faculty and staff with government and private entities to address regional and national issues. The institute he has directed since 2015, TWRI, is a unit of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Tracy to the College leadership team,” said Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “He brings to the role his deep experience and knowledge in engineering research, collaboration and management. He is a nationally recognized leader in water resource management, which supports many of our key ideas at AgriLife, from sustainable agriculture to the security of natural resources. He is abundantly qualified to lead and advance the department.”
At the Texas Water Resources Institute, and in his position as a professor of water resources in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Tracy has pursued research collaborations to understand and develop sustainable water resource management practices across the western U.S. These projects have resulted in publications in agricultural, chemical, engineering and interdisciplinary water resource professional journals.
Tracy’s recent research focuses on the behavior of water resource systems under the influence of changing hydrologic, economic and social conditions. He also works to improve engagement and knowledge among water resource managers and users.
A background in water resources and research administration
Prior to joining Texas A&M, Tracy served as associate vice president for research for Southern Idaho from 2009 to 2015 and as vice president for research at the University of Idaho in 2006 and 2007. Before that, he served as director of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute and professor of civil engineering with the University of Idaho. In 2000, he became the inaugural director of the Center for Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada.
Tracy earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering at Colorado State University in 1980 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering at the University of California at Davis in 1986 and 1989. He started his academic career in 1989 at Kansas State University. There, his research focused on modeling phytoremediation processes and developing models to aid administration of surface and groundwater rights.