When he was a college student majoring in geography in the 1970s, Lawrence Band drove a New York City cab in the summer. At the time, of course, Band, a native of the Bronx, didn’t know that he would one day be an internationally respected eco-hydrologist, a scientist working on the advanced edge of the search for solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges: for one thing, “eco-hydrologist” was a career that didn’t even exist then.
Yet decades later, the time Band spent navigating the streets of gritty late-’70s New York turns out to be relevant to his work. Band, who joined the UVA faculty in 2017, holds joint appointments as both the Ernest H. Ern Professor of Environmental Sciences in the College and as a professor in the Engineering School’s newly launched Department of Engineering Systems and Environment—reflecting the fact that Band’s work as a researcher crosses disciplines.
Water is one of the 21st century’s most complex global challenges.
He studies not only natural watersheds but their urban counterparts. In examining where the water goes in cities and the ways that people interact with their environments, Band draws on the intimate knowledge of an urban landscape and its people that he acquired behind the wheel of a taxi. “You learn quite a lot about the spatial patterns and temporal patterns of the city by driving a cab,” he said. He calls it “becoming familiar with your field of study.”