James V. Bonta came to Purdue with a bachelor's degree in watershed science and a master's degree in civil engineering with a focus on hydrology and hydraulics. His doctorate focused in the same area.
His career began at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk, Va., where he worked on Hurricane Agnes storm calculations for the eastern U.S. and assisted with tidal-flooding and dam calculations. After receiving his master's degree from The Ohio State University in 1976, he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Coshocton, Ohio. There, he worked at the 1,050-acre watershed research facility (N. Appalachian Experimental Watershed, NAEW), evaluating the effectiveness of land-management practices.
As a research engineer/scientist, Bonta focused on hydrology, hydraulics and water quantity-/quality-related projects in agricultural
landscapes and disturbed lands due to mining for coal. He was named research leader at the NAEW in 2005, overseeing a watershed research program that included areas from agricultural to urban hydrology and water quality.
Early in his research career, Bonta took the lead on a nine-year landmark project to investigate the impact of mining for coal on hydrology and water quality. He developed a method for stochastic storm precipitation modeling in ungauged areas. He has also co-invented or adapted many types of hydrological instrumentation, including the drop-box weir used where streamflows are laden with sediment and rocks. His current interests include
stochastic precipitation modeling and quantifying climatechange impacts.
Bonta has been consulted worldwide on hydrological instrumentation, storm modeling and surface mining impacts. Among his many awards are a Congressional Proclamation given to the NAEW for its outreach efforts in 2009. He has been an associate editor for two ASCE journals, has held all offices on an ASCE Surface-Water Committee and is currently a member of the ASCE Watershed Management Technical Committee.
He and his wife, Darlene, have been married for 40 years. They have three daughters and attend the Lutheran Church.