Diane M. McKnight

Diane M. McKnight

Fellow of INSTAAR

  • Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder



  • PhD: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1979

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-4687


Limnology; biogeochemistry of lakes and streams.


Research focuses on interactions between hydrologic, chemical and biological processes in controlling the dynamics in aquatic ecosystems. This research is carried out through field-scale experiments, modeling, and laboratory characterization of natural substrates. Conducts research focusing on interactions between freshwater biota, trace metals, and natural organic material in diverse freshwater environments, including lakes and streams in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica.

Main field sites are located in the Rocky Mountains and in the Transantarctic Mountains, and include pristine and stressed ecosystems. A co-principal investigator in the McMurdo Dry Valley LTER and in the Niwot Ridge LTER. 

Develops interactions with state and local groups involved in mine drainage and watershed issues in the Rocky Mountains.

Recent CU Connections interview "Five Questions for Diane McKnight."


  • John Dalton Medal, European Geosciences Union, 2015
  • Distinguished Research Lectureship, CU-Boulder, 2015
  • Elected member, National Academy of Engineering, 2012
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2009
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 2004
  • Meritorious Service Award, U.S. Geological Survey, 1995




Garrett Rue,,Rachel Gabor,Pitlick, J.,Tfaily, M.,Diane M. McKnight{/exp:playa:children, 2017: Concentration-discharge relationships during an extreme event: Contrasting behavior of solutes and changes to chemical quality of dissolved organic material in the Boulder Creek Watershed during the September 2013 flood. Special section, "Concentration-Discharge Relations in the Critical Zone." Water Resources Research, 53(7): 5276-5297. DOI: 10.1002/2016WR019708

{playaGJdooogs:title}{/exp:playa:children, 2017: Debates—Hypothesis testing in hydrology: A view from the field: The value of hydrologic hypotheses in designing field studies and interpreting the results to advance hydrology. Water Resources Research, 53(3): 1779-1783. DOI: 10.1002/2016WR020050

Smith, H. J.,Foster, R. A.,{playab2Q8Pxcf:title},Lisle, J. T.,Littmann, S.,Kuypers, M. M. M.,Foreman, C. M, 2017: Microbial formation of labile organic carbon in Antarctic glacial environments. Nature Geoscience, 10(5): 356-359. DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2925

All publications by Diane M. McKnight >



Current Courses

  • CVEN 5323: Applied Stream Ecology

Past Courses

  • CVEN 3434: Introduction to Applied Ecology
  • CVEN 3454: Water Chemistry
  • CVEN 5454: Environmental Engineering Chemistry
  • CVEN 6404: Advanced Aquatic Chemistry