I have always thought of ecohydrology as the study of that most neglected part of the water balance, evapotranspiration. But that may be too narrow, and I am beginning to expand my view on this. Recharge is definitely more neglected.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geological engineering, from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, which at the time was the University of Missouri – Rolla. I then did my doctorate in Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. The combination of topics gave me an excellent foundation for working on my main research area, groundwater dependent ecosystems.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
When I originally started my doctorate, I had intended to go into stochastic hydrogeology for hazardous waste applications. However, when I arrived at Berkeley, my advisor, Yoram Rubin, said, “You know, there’s a new area that’s getting attention, and given your talent for field work, I think you might be good at it.” We started working on a savanna model, which brought in my co-advisor, Dennis Baldocchi, and his field site at Tonzi Ranch. From there, I found that I really enjoyed both and have pursued an integrated modeling and measurement approach in my work since.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
To me, Earth system modeling is one recent effort where ecohydrologists are making significant contributions. The land surface has always been an important boundary condition in climate models. However, the recent push towards integrated multi-physics, multi-scale codes will be key to understanding how the biosphere and the geosphere shape and are shaped by future climate. As we are typically trained in a very interdisciplinary manner, I believe ecohydrologists are well poised to contribute in this arena.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe and Amilcare Porporato published their now classic book Ecohydrology of Water Controlled Ecosystems: Soil Moisture and Plant Dynamics right as I was beginning to work in the field, so the papers collected within it have always been extremely influential in my thinking. Lately, I’ve also come to appreciate works that examine the interconnection between groundwater depletion and agricultural production, which as a matter of food security continues to be a more pressing issue than we realize. Bridget Scanlon and Megan Kronar both have several compelling papers addressing this, making it difficult to pick a favorite.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
These days, my fun is quite kid-orientated – activities like scootering around the neighborhood, constructing Lego buildings, and being chased by zombies in Minecraft. When I do have spare time, I’ve been learning to play piano. It’s been a while since I’ve seriously played an instrument, the last time being the trombone in high school marching band. Music has been a great way to switch off the scientist/engineer part of my brain and always seems to help when I get stuck on a tricky bit of writing.