Dr. Albert J. Heber:
Research Rags to Riches

Event Date: September 26, 2014
Hosted By: CoE Academic Affairs
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: ABE 301
Contact Name: Marsha Freeland
Open To: All
Dr. Albert J. Heber
Dr. Albert J. Heber


Dr. Heber arrived at Purdue University in 1993, after nine years of teaching and research at Kansas State University in agricultural structures and environment, to establish a research and extension program on minimizing livestock odor nuisance, and improving building environmental control and air quality. This was a new area of research at Purdue because there were essentially no air quality instrumentation or equipment in the labs at ABE.  He spent his first ten years gaining valuable experience and using startup funds and other internal Purdue seed grants, and extensive industry and federal agency support to build the Purdue Agricultural Air Quality Laboratory into a productive center of comprehensive air quality research for agriculture and confined life support systems. He and his group wrote the Purdue Odor Setback Model, and designed and constructed sophisticated mobile and on-campus air quality testing labs including sensory odor evaluation by human sniffers. In 2003, the “big ship” came in as he was asked to lead a $13M national livestock air pollution study that involved 20 U.S. farms, eight universities, the EPA, and the broiler, egg, pork and dairy industries. This extraordinarily large study produced state-of-the-art baseline emission rates of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter (TSP, PM10 and PM2.5), and odor, and numerous types of supporting data. The data is being used by national and international stakeholders including the livestock industries and the EPA. The study also established consensus standard methods for measuring emissions in very challenging field environments, and is the source of about 30% of Dr. Heber’s 96 journal articles thus far. Dr. Heber will describe his “rags to riches” career trajectory leading to the national study, the principles of data quality assurance that he learned along the way, and his experience of studying controversial topics. He will highlight the impacts and outcomes of his research, and delineate future plans to continue the measurement and modeling of air pollutant emission, control, dispersion, and exposure.


Dr. Al Heber has 30 years of experience in livestock facility research, education, and consulting with emphasis on air quality. He directs the Purdue Agricultural Air Quality Laboratory, which utilizes state-of-the-art meteorological instruments, olfactometry, GC-FID, GC-MS-O, FTIR spectrometry, and continuous analyzers for NH3, H2S, CO2, CH4, N2O, TSP, PM10, and PM2.5. He developed a mobile air quality lab in 1994 to monitor gas emissions, and two years later conducted a comprehensive building air quality and emission test involving eight swine barns. This was followed by a 1999 lab test of 35 swine manure additives and the development of standardized livestock building PM10 and ammonia (NH3) emission measurements for the U.S. EPA. Since then, he has spearheaded several large-scale, federally-funded, comprehensive emission measurement campaigns with 12 other universities and milk, pork, poultry and egg producers, including the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS) which was required by the politically controversial EPA Air Consent Agreement. He also directed a major greenhouse gas measurement campaign at the NAEMS dairy sites. Over 1,400 “house-months” of emission data have been collected under his direction. Dr. Heber has published 96 journal articles, given over 70 invited papers and lectures, and provided scientific expertise and information on livestock emission estimation methods, emission measurements, and emission controls at livestock facilities to state and federal agencies and the livestock industry. Other research has involved development of a science-based setback model for U.S. pork, dairy and egg production, testing of odor measurement protocols, pathogen emission and dispersion from swine barns, and odor emission from swine, dairy and layer housing, outdoor manure treatment, manure land application, and industrial composting. Dr. Heber has received $33.6M in awards and gifts with direct responsibility of more than $14.3M.