Prof. Deborah L. Swackhamer

Portrait of Deborah Swackhamer before the capitol building

A longtime professor and administrator at the University of Minnesota, Deborah (Deb) Swackhamer was among the leading voices in the nation at the intersection of science, policy, and water resources. She conducted influential scientific work on the behavior of organic pollutants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. In the broader water resources community, she is remembered for her advocacy of scientific integrity and for incorporating science-based knowledge into policy making. This work elevated her to numerous leadership roles at the state, national, and international levels. During her career, Deb mentored students and young faculty and ardently supported them, challenging them to conduct rigorous science, guiding them to successful careers and connecting them with colleagues in her network.

Following Deb’s untimely passing in 2021, the Minnesota Water Resources Conference committee approved a new award to be given in her name. In remembrance of her commitment to early career scientists and professionals, as well as her example of authentic leadership, the Deborah L. Swackhamer Early Career Award is meant to spotlight future leaders in the understanding, management, and care of our water resources.

2023 Deborah L. Swackhamer Award Recipient

Madeline Nyblade

Head shot of Madeline Nyblade

Maddy Nyblade is completing her PhD in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Maddy has distinguished herself by pushing the boundaries of hydrology to tackle critical challenges faced by Minnesota tribes, whose priorities and perspectives have long been marginalized. As a settler scientist, she plays a key role in a collaborative between University researchers and tribal partners around the Upper Great Lakes (including Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, St. Croix, and Lac du Flambeau Bands and the 1854 Treaty Authority and Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission). Her work focuses on protecting Manoomin (Ojibwe)/Psiη (Dakota), or wild rice, an aquatic plant that holds profound significance to Indigenous peoples throughout the region. Her recent book chapter presents innovative approaches that address the challenge of respectfully interfacing hydrological science and Indigenous knowledge. She has implemented these approaches to generate the first quantitative evidence of hydroclimatic change negatively impacting wild rice. Through this research and beyond, Maddy is committed to advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, particularly to stop and reverse harms inflicted by settler academic institutions on Indigenous peoples. Her article in the widely read Eos newsletter about the consequences of geological mapping for Minnesota tribes helped prompt a new, more ethical mapping policy on tribal lands in Minnesota.

About the Award


This award is intended to recognize individuals early in their career working toward the betterment of Minnesota water resources. Eligibility is limited to individuals with 10 years or less of relevant experience. Current graduate students are eligible nominees. Current members of the Minnesota Water Resources Conference committee are not eligible.

Selection criteria

Inspired by Deb Swackhamer’s example and the values she imparted on those she mentored, this award will recognize authenticity, integrity, passion, and a mindset of service to others. Nominations should describe an individual’s exceptional contributions that are likely to shape Minnesota's water future. These contributions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Collaborating in ways that motivate and build the skills of others
  • Advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in workplaces and communities
  • Developing innovative approaches to address water resource problems
  • Communicating science to elucidate public debate and policy choices

Submit Your Nomination