Kathryn Higley has held both Reactor Operator and Senior Reactor Operator’s licenses, and is a former Reactor Supervisor for the Reed College TRIGA reactor

Kathryn A. Higley

Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Interim Director Center for Quantitative Life Sciences, Oregon State University; National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements President-designate.

Email: Kathryn.Higley@oregonstate.edu


Ph.D., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1994

M.S.,  Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1992

B.A., Reed College, Portland, OR, 1978

Research Interests

  • Human and ecological radiological risk
  • Radiation dose assessment
  • Nuclear emergency response
  • Environmental regulations
  • Stakeholder participation and communication
  • Public policy, risk, and remediation

Brief Biography

Kathryn Higley’s interests include environmental transport and fate of radionuclides, radioecology, radiochemistry, radiation dose assessment, neutron activation analysis, nuclear emergency response, and environmental regulations.  She has held both reactor operator and senior reactor operator’s licenses, and is a former reactor supervisor for the Reed College TRIGA reactor.

Higley has been at Oregon State University since 1994 teaching undergraduate and graduate classes on radioecology, dosimetry, radiation protection, radiochemistry, and radiation biology.  She spent fourteen years with Battelle, Pacific Northwest Laboratories as an environmental health physicist at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and three years in environmental radiation monitoring at the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Oregon. Dr. Higley and her students have done research in radiologically contaminated environments around the globe. Additional information can be found on her website: https://ne.oregonstate.edu/kathryn-higley


National Research Council. 2008. Review of the Toxicologic and Radiologic Risks to Military Personnel from Exposures to Depleted Uranium during and After Combat. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.17226/11979.

National Research Council. 2003. Exposure of the American Population to Radioactive Fallout from Nuclear Weapons Tests: A Review of the CDC-NCI Draft Report on a Feasibility Study of the Health Consequences to the American Population from Nuclear Weapons Tests Conducted by the United States and Other Nations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10621.

National Research Council. 2003. Improving the Scientific Basis for Managing DOE’s Excess Nuclear Materials and Spent Nuclear Fuel. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10684

Book Chapters

Higley, K., 2006. Effects of Radioactivity on Plants and Animals. Food Science and Technology, pp.209–224. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1201/9781420019278.ch7.

Bascietto, J.J. & Higley, K.A., 1992. Ecological Assessment at U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Restoration Sites. Ecological Indicators, pp.1219–1238. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4661-0_30.

Refereed Publications

Higley, K.A., 2018. Integration of radiological protection of the environment into the system of radiological protection. Annals of the ICRP, 47(3-4), pp.270-284. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146645318756823

Caffrey, E., Johansen, M., Caffrey, J. and Higley, K., 2017. Comparison of Homogeneous and Particulate Lung Dose Rates For Small Mammals. Health physics, 112(6), pp.526-532. https://doi.org/10.1097/hp.0000000000000668

Neville, D.R. and Higley, K.A., 2017. Lack of Cesium Bioaccumulation in Gelatinous Marine Life in the Pacific Northwest Pelagic Food-Web. In Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety (pp. 311-315). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-58768-4_27

Buesseler, K., Dai, M., Aoyama, M., Benitez-Nelson, C., Charmasson, S., Higley, K., Maderich, V., Masqué, P., Oughton, D. and Smith, J.N., 2016. Fukushima Daiichi-Derived Radionuclides in the Ocean: Transport, Fate, and Impacts. Annual Review of Marine Science, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-marine-010816-060733

Caffrey, E.A., Johansen, M.P. and Higley, K.A., 2016. Voxel modeling of rabbits for use in radiological dose rate calculations. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 151, pp.480-486. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2015.04.008

Bréchignac, F. et al., 2016. Addressing ecological effects of radiation on populations and ecosystems to improve protection of the environment against radiation: Agreed statements from a Consensus Symposium. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 158-159, pp.21–29.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2016.03.021.

Caffrey, E.A., Johansen, M.P. and Higley, K.A., 2015. Organ dose-rate calculations for small mammals at Maralinga, the Nevada test site, Hanford and Fukushima: a comparison of ellipsoidal and voxelized dosimetric methodologies. Radiation research, 184(4), pp.433-441. https://doi.org/10.1667/rr14162.1

Johansen, M.P., Ruedig, E., Tagami, K., Uchida, S., Higley, K. and Beresford, N.A., 2015. Radiological dose rates to marine fish from the Fukushima Daiichi accident: the first three years across the North Pacific. Environmental science & technology, 49(3), pp.1277-1285. https://doi.org/10.1021/es505064d

Higley, K., Ruedig, E., Gomez-Fernandez, M., Caffrey, E., Jia, J., Comolli, M. and Hess, C., 2015. Creation and application of voxelised dosimetric models, and a comparison with the current methodology as used for the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s Reference Animals and Plants. Annals of the ICRP, 44(1_suppl), pp.313-330. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146645315576097

Ruedig, E., Beresford, N.A., Fernandez, M.E.G. and Higley, K., 2015. A comparison of the ellipsoidal and voxelized dosimetric methodologies for internal, heterogeneous radionuclide sources. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 140, pp.70-77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2014.11.004

Ruedig, E., Caffrey, E., Hess, C. and Higley, K., 2014. Monte Carlo derived absorbed fractions for a voxelized model of Oncorhynchus mykiss, a rainbow trout. Radiation and environmental biophysics, 53(3), pp.581-587. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00411-014-0546-5

Neville, D.R., Phillips, A.J., Brodeur, R.D. and Higley, K.A., 2014. Trace levels of Fukushima disaster radionuclides in East Pacific albacore. Environmental science & technology, 48(9), pp.4739-4743. https://doi.org/10.1021/es500129b

Caffrey, E.A., Leonard, M.E., Napier, J.B., Neville, D.R. and Higley, K.A., 2014. Radioecology: why bother? Journal of Environmental Protection, 5(03), p.181. https://doi.org/10.4236/jep.2014.53022

Stone, D.K., Higley, K.A. and Jannik, G.T., 2014. Site-specific reference person parameters and derived concentration standards for the Savannah River Site. Health physics, 106(5), pp.S59-S64. https://doi.org/10.1097/hp.0000000000000073

Caffrey, E.A. and Higley, K.A., 2013. Creation of a voxel phantom of the ICRP reference crab. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 120, pp.14-18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2013.01.006

Higley, K.A., Kocher, D.C., Real, A.G. and Chambers, D.B., 2012. Relative biological effectiveness and radiation weighting factors in the context of animals and plants. Annals of the ICRP, 41(3-4), pp.233-245. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icrp.2012.06.014

Caffrey, J.A., Higley, K.A., Farsoni, A.T., Smith, S. and Menn, S., 2012. Development and deployment of an underway radioactive cesium monitor off the Japanese coast near Fukushima Dai-ichi. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 111, pp.120-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2011.12.015

Higley, K.A., 2010. Estimating transfer parameters in the absence of data. Radiation and environmental biophysics, 49(4), pp.645-656. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00411-010-0326-9

Higley, K.A. and Bytwerk, D.P., 2009. Invariant scaling relationships and their possible application in predicting radionuclide uptake in plants. Radioprotection, 44(5), pp.677-682. https://doi.org/10.1051/radiopro/20095124

Bytwerk, D. and Higley, K., 2009. Cl-36 transfer to ryegrass and consequences for environmental modeling. Radioprotection, 44(5), pp.695-699. https://doi.org/10.1051/radiopro/20095127

Higley, K.A. and Bytwerk, D.P., 2007. Generic approaches to transfer. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 98(1-2), pp.4-23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvrad.2007.02.013

Higley, K.A., Alexakhin, R.M. and McDonald, J.C., 2004. Dose limits for man do not adequately protect the ecosystem. Radiation protection dosimetry, 109(3), pp.257-264. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/rpd/nch322.

Jones, D., Domotor, S., Higley, K., Kocher, D. and Bilyard, G., 2003. Principles and issues in radiological ecological risk assessment. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 66(1-2), pp.19-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0265-931x(02)00114-5

Higley, K.A., Domotor, S.L. and Antonio, E.J., 2003. A kinetic-allometric approach to predicting tissue radionuclide concentrations for biota. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 66(1-2), pp.61-74. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0265-931x(02)00116-9

Higley, K.A., Domotor, S.L., Antonio, E.J. and Kocher, D.C., 2003. Derivation of a screening methodology for evaluating radiation dose to aquatic and terrestrial biota. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 66(1-2), pp.41-59. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0265-931x(02)00115-7

Higley, K.A., Domotor, S.L. and Antonio, E.J., 2003. A probabilistic approach to obtaining limiting estimates of radionuclide concentration in biota. Journal of environmental radioactivity, 66(1-2), pp.75-87. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0265-931x(02)00117-0

Brock, K.M., Neumann, C.M., Higley, K.A., Chang, W.P. and Rossignol, A.M., 2001. A dose reconstruction of 60Co-contaminated window frames in a Taiwanese school. Health physics, 81(1), pp.3-7. https://doi.org/10.1097/00004032-200107000-00002

Povetko, O. and Higley, K., 2001. Application of autoradiographic methods for contaminant distribution studies in soils. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 248(3), pp.561-564. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1010666511866

Higley, K.A. & Povetko, O.G., 1999. Preparation of Soil Thin Sections for Contaminant Distribution Studies. Contaminated Forests, pp.85–93.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-4694-4_9.

Higley, K.A. and Strenge, D.L., 1992. Use of a Monte Carlo Modeling Approach for Evaluating Risk and Environmental Compliance. Effective and Safe Waste Management: Interfacing Sciences and Engineering with Monitoring and Risk Analysis, p.337.

Bascietto, J.J. & Higley, K.A., 1992. Ecological Assessment at U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Restoration Sites. Ecological Indicators, pp.1219–1238. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4661-0_30

National Academy of Science Committees

2004 – 2006 – National Research Council, Committee on Toxicology, Subcommittee on Toxicologic and Radiologic Effects from Exposure to Depleted Uranium During and After Combat

2001 – 2003 – Committee on Improving the Scientific Basis for Managing DOE’s Excess Nuclear Materials and Spent Nuclear Fuel, Board on Radioactive Waste Management

2002 – 2003 – Committee to Review the CDC-NCI Feasibility Study of the Health Consequences from Nuclear Weapons Tests, Board on Radiation Effects Research

Other Committees, Commissions and Boards

2017-2018 – Chair, Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization,

2014-2020 – National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, Council Member
NCRP Subcommittee 64-21, appointed 1996
NCRPSubcommittee 64-23, appointed 1997
NCRP Subcommittee 46, appointed 1997

2005 – 2020 – International Commission on Radiological Protection
Committee 5, Protection of the Environment (2005-2018). Vice Chair C5, 2013-2015. Chair C5 2015 – 2018.
Committee 4, Application of the Commission’s RecommendationsVice Chair (2017-2020).

2009 – present International Atomic Energy Agency,
MODARIA (Modelling and Data for Radiological Impact Assessments)
EMRAS II – Environmental Modelling for Radiation Safety (EMRAS II), Working Group 5

2003 – 2005
EURATOM, European Union, End-Users Group, Environmental Risk from Ionising Contaminants: Assessment and Management (ERICA),

Umatilla Expert Panel (Chemical Weapons Demilitarization Effort, State of Oregon Representative

Rocky Flats Citizens Advisory Board, Technical Expert to the Board

Selected Awards

Edward N. Rickert, Jr. Professor
Fellow, Health Physics Society, 2008
National Association of Environmental Professionals National Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Management, to the U.S. DOE Biota Dose Assessment Committee for the Graded Approach for Evaluating Radiation Doses to Aquatic and Terrestrial Biota, 2001
Elda E. Anderson Award, Health Physics Society, 1995

Registrations, Licenses, Certifications

Comprehensive Certification, American Board of Health Physics, November 1991, recertified to 2020
U.S. NRC Emergency Response Facilities Appraisal Team Training, 1984
Reactor Operator’s License, 1974-1975
Senior Reactor Operator’s License, 1975-1979

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