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Tess Wynn Thompson

Associate Professor & Turner Faculty Fellow
Tess Thompson Photo


Ph.D., Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2004

M.S., Civil Engineering, North Carolina State University, 1995

B.S., Agricultural Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1992


July 2011- Associate Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

July 2004 – June 2011 – Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

August 1998 – May 2004 - Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

May 1996 – June 1998 - Field Coordinator/Extension Associate, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Frederick, MD

March 1995 – May 1996 - Senior Staff Engineer, Woodward-Clyde, Gaithersburg, Maryland

March 1994 – March 1995 - Environmental Modeler, North Carolina Division of Environmental Management, Raleigh, NC

August 1992 – March 1994 - Graduate Research Assistant, Civil Engineering, NC State University, Raleigh

Selected Major Awards

  • Turner Faculty Fellow, 2015-2020
  • Outstanding Faculty Member, Alpha Epsilon, 2005
  • Graduate Dissertation Award of Merit, Gamma Sigma Delta, 2005
  • 1st place, PhD poster competition, Torgersen Graduate Research Awards, 2004
  • Outstanding Graduate Student, College of Engineering, 2001-2002
  • Outstanding Graduate Student, BSE Department, 2000-2001
  • EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship, 1999-2002
  • Member Gamma Sigma Delta, Alpha Epsilon, Tau Beta Pi
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 1992-1995
  • Virginia Tech 1992 Woman of the Year

Courses Taught Last Five Years

  • BSE 2004: Introduction to Biological Systems Engineering
  • BSE 3324: Small Watershed Hydrology
  • BSE 3504: Transport Processes in Biological Systems Engineering
  • BSE 5364:  Stream Restoration
  • BSE 4984/5984: Fluvial Geomorphology

Other Teaching and Advising

I serve as the Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Studies for the BSE department and as the faculty advisor for the VT student branch of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). 

Program Focus

My research program focuses on the protection and restoration of stream and wetland systems.  A major goal of my research program is to investigate the interactions between stream-side vegetation and stream channel stability, including quantifying how vegetation reinforces streambanks and changes flow energy during storm events. I am also interested in improving testing procedures and models of cohesive streambank erosion. I am also collaborating with Lee Daniels (CSES) and Richard Whittecar at Old Dominion University to develop an improved wetland design model. My role in the project has been to improve current surface water hydrology calculations used in common design models.  Another objective of my research program is to minimize the impacts of urban development on streams. Using a grant from the VA Water Quality Improvement Fund, my research team designed, constructed, and monitored two innovative best management practices (BMPs; a bioretention area and a structural soil infiltration trench). Based on these results, we developed BMP design and maintenance recommendations to increase the adoption and success of such BMPs. The next step is to identify the physical, chemical, and microbial processes in forest soils that can be restored in urban environments. I am collaborating with Leigh-Anne Krometis (BSE), David Sample (BSE) and Brian Strahm (Forestry) to explore these processes.  Lastly, to advance the understanding of linkages between management actions and ecosystem response, I am working with faculty across campus to develop and maintain the StREAM Lab, a large scale stream laboratory.

Current Projects

  • “Wetland Water Budget Modeling” – this multidisciplinary project funded by the Piedmont Wetlands Research Program focuses on the development of a wetland water budget model to improve the success of mitigation wetlands.
  • "Stream Restoration Design" - funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the goal these projects is to improve the design of stream restoration projects by updating current design recommendations for instream structures and investigating the relationship between the success of stream restoration designs and watershed, project, and site characteristics.
  • "Effectiveness of Low Impact Development in Protecting Channel Stability" - funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the project goal is to use a watershed model (SWMM) and a reach-scale channel morphology model (CONCEPTS) to assess the effectiveness of environmental site design in reducing channel erosion downstream from urban development.  
  • “Influence of Stream Temperature on Streambank Erosion” – this project is examining the effect of changes in stream temperature, due to climate or landuse change, on the erosion of cohesive streambank soils.

Selected Recent Publications

(* undergraduate student, ** graduate student, *** post-doc)

  • Ketabchy, M.**, D.J. Sample, T. Wynn-Thompson, M.N. Yazdi**.  2018.  Thermal evaluation of urbanization using a hybrid approach.  Journal of Environmental Management 226:457-475.  doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.08.016
  • Akinola, A.I.**, T. Wynn-Thompson, C.G. Olgun, F. Cuceoglu**, S. Mostaghimi.  2018.  Influence of sample holding time on the fluvial erosion of remolded cohesive soils.  Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 144(8): 04018049.  doi:10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0001504.
  • Waller, L.J.**, G.K. Evanylo, L-A.H. Krometis, M.S. Strickland, T. Wynn-Thompson, B.D. Badgley. Engineered and environmental controls of microbial denitrification in established bioretention cells.  Environmental Science & Technology 52(9): 5358-5366. doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b06704 
  • Allen, D.C.***, T.M. Wynn-Thompson, D.A. Kopp**, B.J. Cardinale. 2018.  Riparian plant biodiversity reduces stream channel migration rates in three rivers in Michigan, USA.  Ecohydrology 11: e1972.  doi:/10.1002/eco.1972 
  • Hoomehr, S.***, A.I. Akinola**, T. Wynn-Thompson, W. Garnand**, and M. Eick. 2018.  Water temperature, pH, and road salt impacts on the fluvial erosion of cohesive streambanks.  Water 10(3): 302.  doi:10.3390/w10030302
  • Billian, H.**, L.H. Krometis, T. Thompson, and C. Hagedorn. 2018. Movement of traditional fecal indicator bacteria and source-tracking targets through septic drainfields. Science of the Total Environment  610-611: 1467-1475.  doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.08.131
  • Smyntek P.***, R. Wagner R, L.H. Krometis, S. Carvajal, T. Wynn-Thompson, and W. Strosnider.  2018.  Passive biological treatment of mine water to reduce conductivity: Potential designs, challenges, and research needs.  Journal of Environmental Quality 46(1): 1-9.
  • Willard L.**, T. Wynn-Thompson, L.H. Krometis, T. Neher**, and B. Badgley.  2017.  Does it pay to be mature? Assessing the performance of a bioretention cell seven years post-construction.  Journal of Environmental Engineering 143(9): 04017041. 
  • Hopkinson, L.C.** and T.M. Wynn-Thompson.  2016.  Comparison of direct and indirect boundary shear stress measurements along vegetated streambanks.  River Research and Applications 32: 1755-1764.
  • Allen, D.C.***, B.J. Cardinale, and T.M. Wynn-Thompson. 2016.  Plant biodiversity effects in reducing fluvial erosion are limited to low species diversity.  Ecology 97(1): 17-24.
  • Allen, D.C.***, B.J. Cardinale, and T.M. Wynn-Thompson. 2014.  Integrating ecological principles into interdisciplinary ecogeoscience research.  BioScience 64(5): 444-454.
  • Resop, J.P.**, W.C. Hession, and T.M. Wynn-Thompson. 2014.  Quantifying the parameter uncertainty in the cross-sectional dimensions for a stream restoration design of a gravel-bed stream.  Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 69(4): 306-315.
  • Niezgoda, S.L., P.R.Peter R. Wilcock, D.W. Baker, J. Mueller Price, J.M. Castro, J.C. Curran, Theresa Wynn-Thompson, J.S. Schwartz, and F.D. Shields, Jr. 2014.  Defining a stream restoration body of knowledge as a basis for national certification.  Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 140: 123-136.
  • Plumb, P.**, S. Day, T. Wynn-Thompson, and J. Seiler.  2013.  Relationship between woody plant colonization and Typha L. encroachment in stormwater detention basins.  Environmental Management 52(4):861-876.
  • Hopkinson, L.C.** and T.M. Wynn-Thompson.  2012.  Streambank shear stress estimates using turbulent kinetic energy.  J. Hydraulic Research  50(3): 320-323.

Selected Recent Funding

  • Effectiveness of stormwater management practices in protecting stream channel stability.  Wynn-Thompson, T., D. Sample, and A. Miller.  $177,555. Chesapeake Bay Trust.  2018-2019.
  • Improving the success of stream restoration practices.  Wynn-Thompson, T. and E.P. Smith  $217,322.  Chesapeake Bay Trust.  2017-2019.
  • Improving the success of in-stream structures.  Wynn-Thompson, T.  $88,075.  Chesapeake Bay Trust.  2015-2017.
  • Badgley, B., T. Thompson, and G. Evanylo. $117,402. Opening the ‘black box’ in bioretention cells: how does understanding of microbial ecology translate to improved performance? ICTAS.  2014-2016.
  • Wynn-Thompson, T. and M. Eick. $45,624 Physicochemical effects of temperature and water chemistry on streambank erosion.  Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. 2012-2013.
  • Wynn, T. $76,458. Development of a Wetland Vegetation Hydraulic Properties Database Piedmont. Wetlands Research Program. 2011-2012.
  • Wetland Water Budget Modeling. W.L. Daniels, T.M. Wynn, and R. Whittecar. $1,588,256. Piedmont Wetlands Research Program. 2008-2018.
  • Hession, W.C., B. Benham, W.L. Daniels, G. Evanylo, LA. Krometis, D. Scott, T. Wynn, E. Hester, K. McGuire, W. Aust, F. Benfield, D. Orth. Stroubles Research, Education, and Management Site (StREAMS) laboratory. $43,327. CALS Integrated Internal Competitive Grants Program. 2011.
  • Hodges, S., J. Cundiff, J. Fike, J. Galbraith, J. Ignosh, J. Pease, R. Grisso, T. Wynn, J. Campbell, J. McGee, S. McGinnis, S. Prisley, W. Thomason. VT Integrated Bioenergy Team. $35,000. CALS Integrated Internal Competitive Grants Program. 2011.
  • Stremler, M., J.R. Kuhn, P.P. Vlachos, R.V. Davalos, S.D. Ross. IGERT: MultiScale Transport in Environmental and Physiological Systems (MultiSTEPS). $3,000,000. National Science Foundation. 2010-2015.Wynn Thompson is a Faculty Participant.