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Alan Collins

Alan Collins kayaking.


In the past, my research has looked at watersheds and how to protect water quality. They’ve looked at incentivizing farmers to get involved in water quality projects. In Culvers Run watershed in Hardy County, we experimented with a group level payment that incentivized farmers to get involved in improving water quality, and they did. I was involved in a proposal to expand the program to the Lost River earlier this year. I haven’t heard what the result was yet. 

Another project we’re just getting completed is water reliability and unreliable public water supplies and the impact on housing values. If you’ve grown up in West Virginia, you’ve probably seen boil water notices be announced in communities. We look at what the impact of those boil water notices are on housing prices. One thing that’s interesting is that boil water notices tend to affect prices at the lower end of the price range. Lower priced houses are more impacted by those than higher priced houses. 

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

I would probably be working at another university. Thirty years in it’s hard to say where you would have been if you didn’t start here at WVU. I grew up in the western United States, so it’d probably be somewhere out west. 

Moment you knew what you wanted to study:

It wasn’t until after I graduated with a master’s degree and started working as a research associate at the University of Wyoming. It was interesting research and there was a lot of flexibility in terms of what projects you could work on. I guess I figured out if I’m going to be in the university system I need a Ph.D., and I wanted to get a faculty position, so that’s how I determined this is what I want to be doing, so that motivated me to go on and get a Ph.D. 

Moment you knew your current role was right for you:

I took on the role as interim director to help the division and make sure we had good leadership moving forward after the previous director got a deanship job. It hasn’t been quite as difficult as I thought it would be. I have a lot of knowledge about how things work. And I had a lot of knowledge about how the programs work. I knew what I thought was good management at the division level and what was not good management. I’ve attempted to implement good management. That’s one of the benefits of being here a long time; you learn to know the system well enough you feel comfortable being able to operate at the director level.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I guess I’d live somewhere in the western United States. I’m trying to decide whether to say a climate or an elevation level. It’s more like a 5,000 foot elevation, which sounds high, but there’s the perfect climate. It's a climate where it’s warm in the summer, not too cold in the winter, gets a little bit of snow and it doesn’t really get hot. It’s a pinyon-juniper ecosystem, and it always struck me as a nice climate to live in.

Favorite part of social distancing:

That’s an easy one for me! I can roll out of bed, turn on my computer dressed however I want to and start work.

Least favorite part of social distancing:

As a unit director, I have to maintain a sense of calm and confidence about how this is all going to play out with COVID-19 and changing the way we instruct and changing whether we can show up to the office or not. So I have to maintain a sense of optimism and calm in the face of uncertainty. It requires much more patience and understanding and listening to peoples’ concerns and problems. People had concerns and problems before, and now they have been multiplied. 

Just for Fun

Favorite book: Collapse by Jared Diamond

Favorite movie/TV show: The Sound of Music

Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Country music, Eagles

Favorite local activity: Hiking at Coopers Rock