The cycling of water and nutrients connects ecosystems around the world. In order to fully understand the implications of human impacts on these critical cycles it is necessary to examine how physical and biological processes interact. It is especially important to know how such processes behave differently over a wide range of timescales. Streams provide a particularly useful medium through which we may investigate terrestrial-aquatic system linkages as well as how human activities can affect systems over great distances.
My research is primarily motivated by the need to understand how hydrological and biogeochemical processes interact to control the transport and transformation of primary nutrients in streams across temporal scales from minutes to years. Recent advances in high-frequency in situ hydrochemical sensing technology make it possible to understand biogeochemical process on the time scales over which they vary. I utilize advanced sensors in highly dynamic environments in conjunction with quantitative analytic techniques to investigate how integrated data sets can reveal patterns in the factors that control coupled terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem processes. Identifying and quantifying the controls on nutrient transport and transformation in streams is necessary to accurately predict impacts of nutrient enrichment on downstream systems, design and evaluate remediation strategies, and the implementation of real-time ecosystem modeling. These complex objectives can only be achieved through multi-disciplinary research. Conducting my research in the context of long-term interdisciplinary studies increases the temporal resolution at which we understand how ecosystems function and change.
By locating my research in alpine and polar environments I seek to leverage the characteristics that make such systems unique in order to further both scientific understanding and education. The highly dynamic conditions that characterize alpine and polar systems combined with relatively reduced ecological complexity and their increased sensitivity and amplified response to anthropogenic forcings, such as climate change and nitrogen deposition, make them ideal sites for model development and validation. As a mountaineer and former secondary-level educator, I am particularly interested in the potential for research in extreme environments to inspire curiosity and engage young students with the Earth sciences. Doing so within the context of hydrology and biogeochemistry presents opportunities for students to develop their understanding of core content knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner and construct a robust foundation for scientific literacy. To this end, my outreach efforts focus on facilitating the use of public data sets from Antarctica by middle and high school students in authentic scientific practices, especially modeling and experimental design.
- McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research
- Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory
- Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research