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Theo Dillaha

Professor Emeritus


Ph.D. Agricultural Engineering, Purdue University, 1981

M.S. Environmental & Water Resources Engineering, Vanderbilt University, 1976

B.E. Environmental & Water Resources Engineering, Vanderbilt University, 1974


April 1999 – present - Professor of Biological Systems Engineering, VPI&SU.

Oct. 2004 – Dec. 2010 - Program Director SANREM CRSP and Professor of Biological Systems Engineering, VPI&SU.

May 1989 – May 1999 - Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Biological Systems Engineering, VPI&SU.

Aug. 1994 - July 1995 - Fulbright Fellow, Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius.

Sept. 1983 - May 1989 - Assist. Prof., Dept. of Biological Systems Engineering, VPI&SU.

Oct. 1981 - May 1983 - Assistant Professor, Water and Energy Research Institute, University of Guam.

Aug. 1978 - Sept. 1981 - Graduate Research Instructor, Dept. of Agricultural Engineering, Purdue Univ.

July 1977 - Aug. 1978 - Graduate Assistant, Dept. of Agricultural Engineering, Univ. of Arkansas.

June 1976 - May 1977 - Municipal Sanitary Engineer, Peace Corps, Agadir, Morocco.

Jan. 1975 - May 1976 - Environmental and Water Resources Engineer, WAPORA, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Courses Taught Last Five Years

  • BSE 3306 - Land & Water Resources Engineering
  • BSE 4125/4126 - Comprehensive Design Project
  • ENGR 3124 - Introduction to Green Engineering

Other Teaching and Advising

I coordinate the Rebuilding Higher Education in Agriculture in the South Sudan at Virginia Tech. This $9 million five-year project seeks to improve the quality of teaching, research, and extension in the agricultural and natural resource management programs of the University of Juba and the Catholic University of the South Sudan. Virginia Tech is the lead US institution and Virginia State University is also a partner. The project is funded through the higher Education in Development, Inc. with funding from USAID/South Sudan.

I am also active in Engineers without Borders –USA and serve as the campus advisor to the Virginia Tech student chapter (EWB-VT). We have active projects the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, and Uganda.

Program Focus

My research involves watershed assessment and management, nonpoint source pollution control, best management practice assessment, green engineering, water supply and sanitation in developing countries, and the development of sustainable agricultural production systems, particularly in developing countries.  A primary emphasis of my research is a systems-based approach to the management of natural resources, which stresses the interconnectedness between biophysical, economic, social and policy factors and the need to identify holistic solutions that address all of these factors.  In my international research and development work, I seek appropriate technology solutions that will work and are sustainable given locally available resources.

Current Projects

Rebuilding Higher Education in Agriculture to Support Food Security, Economic Growth, and Peace Efforts in Post-Conflict South Sudan. After almost 50 years of civil war, the higher education system in South Sudan is in a state of crisis as it attempts to deal with the immense challenges of post-conflict regional reconstruction and development. Higher education in agriculture, the source of livelihood for the vast majority of the population, together with sustainable management of the rich natural resource base of the region offer the best opportunity for near and intermediate-term impact. Rebuilding higher education in agriculture in the South Sudan is essential due to the long civil war which had catastrophic consequences for the entire southern region, especially in the areas of education and agriculture. The collective vision of the partnership is to adopt a “land-grant university” approach in Southern Sudan through tertiary education, research, and outreach missions. Projected highlights/impacts of the first five years of the partnership include the development of university master plans for teaching, research, and outreach; development of proposals for donor organizations to acquire the human resources and infrastructure required to implement the master plans; implementation of the master plans; immediate establishment of faculty/staff exchange programs to strengthen teaching, research, and outreach programs (approximately 143 faculty exchanges/trips); engagement of Southern Sudan university faculty in graduate education programs in the United States and elsewhere (approximately 30 M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, targeting 50% women); and creation of an effective and dynamic Southern Sudan-U.S. university partnership that facilitates the attainment of goals. Gender equity goal of the partnership is that at least 50 percent of faculty, staff, students, and farmers engaged in our activities be women.

Selected Recent Publications

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

  • Habersack, M. J.**, T. A. Dillaha, and C. Hagedorn. 2011. Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) as a Source of Fecal Indicator Bacteria in Freshwater Systems. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00572.x.
  • Soupir, M. L., S. Mostaghimi, and T. Dillaha. 2010. Attachment of Escherichia coli and enterococci to particles in runoff. Journal of Environmental Quality 39(3):1019–1027.
  • Krometis, L.H.**, T. A. Dillaha, N. G. Love, S. Mostaghimi. 2009. Evaluation of filtration/dispersion method for enumeration of particle-associated E. coli. Journal of Environmental Quality 38(3):980-986.
  • Wagner, R.C.**, T.A. Dillaha, and E.R. Yagow. 2007. An Assessment of the Reference Watershed Approach for TMDLs with Biological Impairments. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution 181 :341-354. Link to publication
  • Harpold, A. A., S. Mostaghimi, P. P. Vlachos, K. Brannan, T. Dillaha. 2006. Stream Discharge Measurement Using a Large-Scale Particle Image Velocimetry (LSPIV) Prototype. Transactions of the ASABE 49(6): 1791−1805.
  • Benham, B.L., K.M. Brannan, E. Yagow, R.W. Zeckoski, T.A. Dillaha, S. Mostaghimi, and J.W. Wynn. 2005. Development of Bacteria and Benthic Total Maximum Daily Loads: A Case Study, Linville Creek, Virginia. J. Environmental Quality 34:1860-1872.
  • Zeckoski, R. W.**, B. L. Benham, S. B. Shah, M. L. Wolfe, K. M. Brannan, M. Al-Smadi, T. A. Dillaha, S. Mostaghimi, C. D. Heatwole. 2005. BSLC: A Tool for Bacteria Source Characterization for Watershed Management. Applied Engineering in Agriculture 21(5): 879−889.
  • Benham, B.L., J.H. Cunningham, K.M. Brannan, S. Mostaghimi, T.A. Dillaha, J. Pease and E.P. Smith. 2005. Development of Survey-like Assessment Tools to Assess Agricultural Best Management Practice Performance Potential. J. of Soil and Water Conservation 60(5):251-259.

Selected Recent Funding

  • “Stakeholder Empowerment through Knowledge-Based Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Systems (Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Support Program)”, PI: DeDatta, S.K., CoPIs: M. Bertelsen, T.A. Dillaha, K. Moore, M. Christie. October 2004 - September 2014, USAID, $27,000,000, 9/2004-9/2014.
  • “Rebuilding Higher Education in Agriculture to Support Food Security, Economic Growth, and Peace Efforts in Post-Conflict Southern Sudan”, PI: M. Bertelsen, CoPIs: Dillaha T., A. Abaye, S. De Datta, A. Grant, J. Dooley, American Council on Education, Office of Higher Education for Development (ACE/HED), $9,487,307, 2/2011 – 9/2015,
  • “Training of Trainers for Environmentally Sound Design and Implementation of Labor-Based Feeder Road Public Works Construction Projects of the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP)”, PI: M. Bertelsen, CoPI: T.A. Dillaha, USAID, $158,700, 3/2011-9/2011.