Ecohydrology represents the bi-directional interaction of the biosphere and the hydrosphere. The more I research the more I see connections between the carbon and water cycles. I study rice fields and their water use and generation of the greenhouse gas methane. Rice has evolved to be flood tolerant, so the fields are flooded to outwit the weeds. Under the anoxic soil conditions, microbes have to develop and end up producing CH4 rather than CO2, so there is a more potent greenhouse gas coming off these fields as a second or third order consequence to this old weed-prevention mechanism. Fortunately, modern rice varieties and careful farm management allow introducing deliberate dry periods and we can dampen CH4 production without bringing on too many weeds or disturbing our rice production. The field becomes an eco-hydrological system under our investigation, and that framing helps in understanding its processes.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
My degrees are all in Civil & Environmental Engineering. I studied environmental engineering out of an interest in nature and water and how to help with the various water issues that affect the world. I had no idea where it would lead me! I now very much enjoying working in a Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering. At Arkansas we focus our department on the sustainability of our food, energy, and water systems.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
Two of my favorite course in college were “Global Biogeochemical Cycles” and “Ecohydrology”. I realized then that the interfaces of disciplines provide a particularly fascinating space of inquiry. Hydrology is a critical ecological and evolutionary driver; vegetation can also help determine its local hydrology.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
I believe applied ecohydrology will become increasing critical – such as our work in agro-ecosystem management. To perform any kind of ‘natural carbon solution’ as part of the toolbox against climate change, we need to have a systems perspective on the landscape – one that accounts for ecological and hydrological implications and their interactions. For example plans to plant millions of trees must account for water availability, changes to agricultural systems must consider both photosynthesis and transpiration, and those who re-wet peatlands must account for the special relationship between moss growth and water levels.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
I’ve always enjoyed the perspectives of my undergraduate Ecohydrology professor, Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe. His wonderful piece in WRR in 2000 was written around the time of that course, and its outlook is still so relevant in its emphasis on soil moisture dynamics and the vegetative needs that both derive from and generate that change: Rodriguez-Iturbe, 2000, Ecohydrology: A hydrologic perspective of climate‐soil‐vegetation dynamics, Water Resources Research, 36(1), 3-9, https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/1999WR900210.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
I really do like water: I enjoy swimming for exercise and relaxation. I’ve recently started doing some yoga and enjoy the calming benefits of that kind of directed stretching and meditation. About a year ago I also picked up an electronic keyboard and enjoy playing a few songs – my husband’s a punk rock musician and it’s great gift to enjoy music together.