The scientists who study surface water, and what's needed to keep it clean, now find themselves in positions of public authority.
When Michael Principe landed his first job as a limnologist nine years ago, he considered himself lucky. The economy was mired in a recession, and the outlook for increased government spending on the environment looked dim. Few federal or state agencies were seeking scientists in Principe's research realm, the scientific study of fresh water systems - an area increasingly directed toward the preservation or restoration of lakes, rivers, streams, and other surface waters.

Moreover, Principe (pronounced Prince-uh-pay) had little reason to believe that his initial work - analyzing reservoir data for New York City's Department of Environmental Protection - would lead to an administrative post involved with public policy issues. Yet that's exactly what happened.

"Limnology was kind of esoteric at the time. It just wasn't incorporated into...

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