Robert Brooks


As Professor of Geography and Ecology in the Department of Geography at the Pennsylvania State University, and Director and Founder of Riparia, a Center where science informs policy and practice, I have worked in wetlands science and wildlife ecology for over 30 years, developing a widely recognized and integrated program of education, research and outreach. Current research projects include:

  • developing hydrogeomorphic functional assessment models for riverine, depression, and slope wetlands
  • developing ecological indicators for wetlands, streams, riparian areas, and forests, based on plants, macroinvertebrates, amphibians & birds
  • monitoring protocols for reference wetlands and mitigation projects
  • habitat modeling for wetland-riparian and forest wildlife
  • wetlands restoration and creation on altered and damaged landscapes.

I have taught over a dozen different undergraduate wildlife courses and graduate courses in the ecology and management of wetlands, physical geography, field geography, wildlife management and conservation, and restoration ecology. Since 1978, I have published over 125 technical papers, books, and book chapters, and presented over 140 technical presentations at conferences and meetings. I have been the senior principal investigator on 94 of 131 grants funded between 1981-2010, totaling over $20 million.

I have served as the Director of several interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research projects, including the Atlantic Slope Consortium, Watershed Characterization and Prioritization, Bog Turtle Habitat Conservation Plan, and Best Management Practices for Agricultural Watersheds. I attend 3-4 national and regional wetlands meetings per year, and I’m familiar with current federal and state regulations regarding the policy, protection, and mitigation of rivers and wetlands. I have worked with agencies (e.g., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Bureau of Mines, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Wild Resources Conservation Fund), industries (e.g., coal mining, forestry, industrial development authorities, utilities) plus schools and non-profit organizations.

As a member of the Otter Specialist Group of the IUCN, I help to protect otters and their aquatic habitats worldwide.  I have been a consultant and collaborator on wetlands for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 1987, and a member of the Mid-Atlantic Wetlands Working Group, sponsored by USEPA and the states.  I served as Chair of Pennsylvania’s DEP Wetlands Protection Advisory Committee for all 8 years of its existence.  I’m also a member of Pennsylvania’s DCNR Ecosystem Management Committee, the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center Advisory Comm., and spent 16 years on a municipal planning commission. Currently serving on Louisiana Coastal Area Board.

Research Interests

  • ecology
  • conservation and restoration of wetlands streams and riparian areas
  • wetland wildlife
  • landscape ecology

Previous Appointments

  • 1998-2003, Professor, Wildlife and Wetlands, School of Forest Resources, Penn State


  • Ph.D. Wildlife Biology, University of Massachusetts
  • M.S. Wildlife Biology, University of Massachusetts
  • B.S. Biology, Muhlenberg College

Courses Taught

  • EMSC100S
  • GEOG 10


Brooks, R., M. McKenney-Easterling, M. Brinson, R. Rheinhardt, K. Havens, D. O’Brian, J. Bishop, J. Rubbo, B. Armstrong, and J. Hite.  2009.  A Stream-Wetland-Riparian (SWR) index for assessing condition of aquatic ecosystems in small watersheds along the Atlantic slope of the eastern U.S.  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 150:101-117. 

Brooks, R. P., G. P. Patil, S. Fei, A. I. Gitelman, W. L. Myers, and E. D. Reavie.  2007.  Next generation of ecological indicators of wetland condition.  EcoHealth 4(2):176-178 (Special Section of EcoHealth featuring 6 papers on emerging wetland indicators).

Wardrop, D.H., M. E. Kentula, D. L. Stevens, Jr., J.M. Rubbo, K. Hychka, and R. P. Brooks.  2007.  The condition of wetlands on a watershed basis:  The Upper Juniata Watershed in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.  Wetlands 27(3):432-445.

O’Connell, T. J., J. A. Bishop, and R. P. Brooks.  2007.  Sub-sampling data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey for application to the Bird Community Index, an indicator of ecological condition.  Ecological Indicators 7:679-691.
Brooks, R. P., D. H. Wardrop, and C. A. Cole.  2006.  Inventorying and monitoring wetland condition and restoration potential on a watershed basis with examples from the Spring Creek watershed, Pennsylvania, USA.  Environmental Management 38:673-687.

Brooks, R. P., D. H. Wardrop, C. A. Cole, and D. A. Campbell.  2005.  Are we purveyors of wetland homogeneity?:  A model of degradation and restoration to improve wetland mitigation.  Ecological Engineering 24(4):331-340


Penn State Award for Faculty Outreach, 2009