Ecological Society of America Honors Baylor Environmental Science Researcher with Sustainability Science Award

April 6, 2021
Ryan A. McManamay, Ph.D.

Ryan A. McManamay, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental science at Baylor University. (Robert Rogers/Baylor University)

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WACO, Texas (April 6, 2021) – Ryan A. McManamay, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental science at Baylor University, is among the recipients of the Sustainability Science Award announced today by the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

The Sustainability Science Award is given to the authors of a scholarly work that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences. One of the most pressing challenges facing humanity is the sustainability of important ecological, social and cultural processes in the face of changes in the forces that shape ecosystems and regions.

In September 2017, while at the Urban Dynamics Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, McManamay and his coauthors from Oak Ridge, Northern Arizona University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, published "US cities can manage national hydrology and biodiversity using local infrastructure policy" in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science), one of the world's most-cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals.

"I am truly honored for our work to be recognized by such a prestigious award, especially when I look back on the list of past recipients, many renowned scientists whose contributions have been instrumental in shaping my perspective of sustainability science," McManamay said.

McManamay and his interdisciplinary team used spatially referenced data from cities and surrounding rural areas to show how local and regional policy choices can affect hydrologic system integrity and biodiversity conservation. Their work highlights ways to make better choices about land use, water management and electricity production, and it promotes integrated planning and decision-making for greater sustainability of cities and the water- and energy-sheds that support them. Their research demonstrates a novel approach to integrating ecosystem and social sciences, embodying the mission of ESA’s Sustainability Science Award.

"The award carries a lot of significance for me because it validates a long-term decision to pursue interdisciplinary sciences – which, at times, can be isolating if one’s scientific identity is strongly tied to a disciplinary line of research or a community of collaborators. In other words, the award is a landmark and makes me feel that our research has a home and is valued," he said.

McManamay, who joined the Baylor environmental science faculty in 2019, is a spatial ecologist who studies human-environmental systems in order to balance ecosystem and societal needs, specifically large-scale impacts of humans on natural landscapes, such as energy development, on aquatic ecosystems. His formal training is in stream ecology and fisheries ecology, with emphasis on environmental flows and river restoration.

McManamay's research evaluates natural and human-induced patterns in hydrology, infrastructure and impacts to aquatic species, spans a number of scales and includes both field and modeling analysis at ecosystem, community and population levels. He also studies novel approaches to conduct biological monitoring and cataloguing biodiversity. One of his specific interests is how to design sustainable future cities with respect to changes to land cover, shifts in regional to global water budgets and changes in biodiversity.

He was a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 2013 to 2019 and also served as a joint faculty member at the Bredesen Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville from 2016-2019, before continuing his academic career at Baylor.

“Maybe I chose Baylor, or perhaps we chose each other," McManamay said. "At an institutional level, Baylor has an unwavering mission along with high aspirations, such as working hard towards achieving R1 status – honestly, I wanted to be a part of that – and helping to grow a dimension of environmental science in that kind of atmosphere. But also, Baylor seemed like a land of opportunity backed by a supportive community of researchers at all levels of their careers. And through my interactions within the department and College of Arts & Sciences, I’ve found that to be true.”

McManamay is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Fisheries Society and an alumnus of the Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy (ELEEP) group. He serves as an associate editor of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. He earned his B.S. in biological sciences from Clemson University and his M.S. in biological sciences and Ph.D. in fish and wildlife conservation from Virginia Tech.

“Baylor University and the Department of Environmental Science are fortunate to have Ryan McManamay as a colleague," said George P. Cobb, Ph.D., professor and chair of environmental science. "It is gratifying to see the significant positive impacts that he is making to sustainability of ecological systems.”

ESA will present its 2021 awards during a ceremony at the Society’s upcoming Virtual Annual Meeting, which will take place Aug. 2-6.

“This year’s award recipients have shown remarkable leadership and creativity,” said Kathleen Weathers, ESA President. “On behalf of the Ecological Society of America, I congratulate the award winners and thank them for their significant contributions to building both ecological knowledge and the community of ecologists.”


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and eight academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit