Leading the way in avalanche research

Bozeman man wins prestigious award for snow science

By Marshall Swearingen

MONTANA LIVING — A Montana State University researcher has received the highest honor given by the American Avalanche Association.

Ed Adams, professor of civil engineering, has received the American Avalanche Association, MONTANA LIVING

Ed Adams, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, has won the American Avalanche Association’s Honorary Membership Award, which recognizes special achievement in research and other work related to snow avalanches.
The award has been given to only 24 others since it was established in 1987, and the number of honorary members is capped at 20 living individuals at any one time.
“This is a very prestigious award, arguably the premier avalanche science and practice award in the U.S.,” said Dan Miller, head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Miller has long collaborated with Adams on snow research that spans multiple departments at MSU.
“Past recipients of this award are the giants in the field, and Ed is clearly recognized as one of them,” Miller said.
“It means I’ve spent a lot of time playing in the snow,” said Adams with typical modesty, downplaying the fact that he has published more than 85 articles and made nearly 100 presentations related to snow and ice mechanics since joining the MSU faculty in 1992. His avalanche research has been featured in The New York Times, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Adventure Magazine and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, among others.
Adams’ research has taken him to Antarctica, Russia and other locations throughout the world. Kevin Hammonds, assistant professor of civil engineering, recently spent two weeks visiting cold science laboratories in Japan, where he said he was greeted with open arms because of research partnerships that Adams developed over decades.
“The snow science community is international, and everyone knows about MSU, in large part because of Ed,” said Hammonds, who will soon become director of MSU’s Subzero Science and Engineering Research Facility. Adams, the current director, is planning his retirement.
“What sets Ed apart is that he (has) had a vision for the long-term,” said Karl Birkeland, director of the National Avalanche Center and adjunct assistant professor of geography in the Department of Earth Sciences in MSU’s College of Letters and Science. “He has worked really hard not just on his own research, but also in getting the (Subzero Facility) set up and ensuring that the snow science program will continue.”
Adams came to MSU to study snow science in the mid-1970s, when the unique program was already gaining national recognition. His adviser while earning his bachelor’s in earth science at MSU was the legendary John Montagne, one of the early pioneers of applying snow science to the practice of avalanche safety.

Adams went on to earn his master’s and doctorate under now-retired professor Bob Brown in MSU’s engineering college, as snow science at the university became more technical and interdisciplinary.
Montagne was a founding member of the American Avalanche Association, and both Montagne and Brown also received the organization’s Honorary Membership Award, meaning that three of the 24 award winners have been from MSU.
“It’s an honor to be a part of that group,” Adams said.
This story is available on the Web at: http://www.montana.edu/news/17645

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