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DAA: Jeffrey G. Arnold

Jeffrey Arnold

Jeffrey G. Arnold

Temple, TX | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2008

When it comes to understanding the effects of management decisions on water quality and quantity, much of the world turns to the Soil and Water Assessment Tool developed by Jeffrey Arnold while earning his doctoral degree in agricultural engineering at Purdue. Popularly known as SWAT, the public domain software is a river basin scale model used to quantify the impact of land management practices in complex watersheds. It’s supported by the USDA, Agricultural Research Service at the Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple, Texas, where Arnold has spent most of his career. There, he is responsible for a $3.5 million annual budget and staff of 35. His research in the last quarter of a century has been published in some 235 articles and chapters and reported at nearly 50 national and international meetings. In the United States, his work plays a key role in USDA conservation policy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental policy. His international reach is equally profound, evidenced by 23 scientists from 17 countries who have traveled to work with him. Arnold’s greatest satisfaction is that his work is utilized rather than sitting on a shelf. He says his time at Purdue was important for completing SWAT, and for collaborating and establishing cooperation he’s continued with faculty. Impressive credentials aside, Arnold says he won’t be tallying his publications on his deathbed. “I’ll be thinking about the people I touched paths with.” Raised on an Illinois farm, Arnold was drawn to agriculture, but “I wanted to get away from the farm and see what else was out there.” Today, he enjoys his Texas yard, growing vegetables and flowers in two seasons — spring and fall. “Get ‘em in early and keep ‘em watered” is the secret to his success. “You are at one of the best universities in the world. Enjoy the time you have with the faculty and other students, and keep those contacts as you move on in your career.”