Allan E. Jones, a recently promoted assistant research scientist in hydrology, has received the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) 2023 Early Career Investigator Award for his excellence in research and leadership and his impact on the development of the groundwater flow model at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS).
With a Ph.D. in hydrology, Jones joined the ISWS in the summer of 2019 to apply his skills in coding and modeling to the highly respected groundwater modeling team. As the principal investigator (PI) of ongoing projects in the American Bottoms aquifer of southwestern Illinois, he updated the current modeling procedures to be consistent with the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) modern standards. Because of these efforts, the ISWS has been able to collaborate with the USGS on multiple projects to develop protocols to further advance the field of groundwater modeling. PRI now has groundwater models developed in a state-of-the-art environment.
“Allan is continuing to transform the science at the ISWS, modernizing our capabilities and allowing us to serve as equals in innovation with our federal collaborators,” wrote Daniel Abrams, ISWS groundwater flow modeler and a nominator for the award. “I cannot overstate how many opportunities this could create for PRI in the future, and I believe this [upcoming] USGS collaboration is just the beginning.”
Jones is also principal investigator of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) American Bottoms aquifer groundwater modeling effort. This initiative supports a multi-agency technical advisory team, including IDOT, the Illinois and the U.S. EPA, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The project’s goal is to sustainably maintain and manage IDOT dewatering wells surrounding interstates in the East St. Louis metro area. Without the groundwater withdrawals from these wells, local interstates could flood, which would significantly disrupt regional commerce.
“Allan brings professionalism to the team and genuinely cares about providing excellent quality work,” wrote James Curtis, chief of the Geologic and Waste Assessment Unit at IDOT. “The dataset for this project is extremely large and complex and extends back decades, requiring significant data management skills and the ability to see the big picture and discern a path forward, which Allan has accomplished effectively.”
At PRI, Jones was nominated as the sole ISWS representative to serve on the Executive Director’s Advisory Committee (EDAC). He is working to develop by-laws, mentoring guidelines, and opportunities for professional growth and recognition and to enhance entrepreneurial opportunities for PRI. With EDAC, he is leading the development of formal recommendations for a PRI-wide mentoring program to support professional development.
As the Groundwater Section publication coordinator, Jones ensures that publications meet ISWS publication standards and initiated a twice-monthly meeting where colleagues can critique and support each other’s scientific writing.
In addition to his skills as a scientist and project team leader, Jones also shows that he cares deeply for the professional development and well-being of his peers, according to Abrams. Jones has mentored new staff members in working with coding languages, such as Python, in developing modeling products, and in project management and ensuring a well-versed and consistent modeling team. He has also mentored senior staff in proposal development and scientific writing.
“Allan was the driving force behind opting not to use the usual methods but to push forward with cutting-edge ways to do groundwater modeling because he knew it would be good for us as individuals and as a section,” said Mike Krasowski, ISWS hydrogeologist. “Today, we are leveraging innovations Allan pushed for three years ago that enable us to do more powerful and impactful research and to do so in a modern, collaborative way that helps everyone contribute their best work.”
Since he joined PRI in 2019, Jones has published several peer-reviewed papers and ISWS contract reports, serves as a PI or co-PI on various major projects, and has received and pursued funding from IDOT, the Illinois Water Resource Center, Barrington Area Council of Governments, USGS, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the IDNR Office of Water Resources.