Among the overlapping challenges facing the watershed, which provides drinking water for 15 million people and extends from New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, are "population changes, increased water use, and the potential for natural gas development in the headwaters," Collier said.
There is also the need to ensure adequate river flows for aquatic communities and to deal with the potential impacts of climate change, from more intense storms to longer summer droughts to sea-level increase, she said.
Planning for this is best done at the basin scale, Collier said. "But a lot of implementation is at the feet of local officials," she said. "I would like to help with that difficult transition, from how do you develop a plan to how do you implement the action."
For the academy, which for 70 years has been a national leader in stream research, it's "a game-changer," said Roland Wall, senior director for environmental initiatives. "Carol brings decades of experience and a wealth of high-level contacts that will allow us to vastly expand the range of our watershed work."
David J. Velinsky, who directs the academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research, said he expected Collier would be "a valuable conduit between watershed groups and the academy - both in what we're doing and what they're doing. She has the credibility, the background, and the knowledge."
For Collier, going to the academy also will be a return to her roots. She spent most of her University of Pennsylvania graduate school years at the academy with her mentor, Ruth Patrick, a nationally renowned biologist and stream ecologist who died in 2013 at the age of 105.
During the time Collier led the Basin Commission, whose voting members are the four governors with land in the basin and a federal representative, it addressed PCB contamination, completed a water resources plan, expanded protections for segments of the river, and wrestled with the issue of natural gas development. Currently, there is a moratorium on drilling in the basin.
Previously, Collier was executive director of Pennsylvania's 21st Century Environment Commission and southeast regional director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. She also worked for nearly two decades with BCM Environmental Engineers Inc., in Plymouth Meeting.