Quoting (misquoting?) previous leafs, ecohydrology is the integration of multiple physical/chemical relationships used to characterize and quantify water’s movement through soil, plant, and the hydrosphere. But for me personally (who functions primarily as a hydrologist), ecohydrology really boils down to wrapping my brain around how plant physiology controls the flux of moisture from soil to atmosphere, and this is largely due to the lack of plant biology in my academic years so I frequently find myself banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what’s driving the variability within and between plants. That said, ecohydrology is also an excellent tool for getting hydrologists and engineers to pull out their hair when they discover things like xylem embolism or variable stomata functioning with temperature.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
My undergraduate degree was in Geography (minor in Geology) from Northern Arizona University (2000), while my master’s degree was in Ecohydrology and Watershed Management from the University of Arizona (2009). The six years betwixt my educations were spent as a seamstress.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
Loving the Sonoran Desert, but conflicted with its growing population and dwindling water resources, I enrolled in a wonderful program through The University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension called Master Watershed Stewards (2005). This opened the door to the University of Arizona’s graduate program in Ecohydrology and Watershed Management where the likes of Dr. Papuga and Dr. Breshears thoroughly stretched the capabilities of this brain and introduced me to this soil-plant-atmosphere relationship. Although I worked specifically in urban heat island research, my coursework and assistance with other staff in Papuga’s Lab landed me a job in Southern California Dudek’s hydrogeology division where they were wanting to expand their toolset in developing water balances by quantifying plant water demands. I’ve been on this steep and fulfilling learning curve ever since.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
I’ve only lived in the foothills of the Sierras for two years, but the theme between June and November appears to be smoke and fear. With my regional bias I think ecohydrology can play an important role in the ongoing modeling of ecosystem responses to climate change, ideally improving our ability to prioritize forest management resources.
More closely related to my work in the private sector note, California’s recent Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is requiring that groundwater basins identify and preserve groundwater dependent ecosystems; developing simple and cost-effective tools/methods for assessing the health of said ecosystems may help increase the number of groundwater agencies implementing such monitoring programs.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
Yeah, and it’s by a former leaf-er! Steven Loheide, James Butler, and Steven Gorelick’s 2005 Estimation of Groundwater Consumption by Phreatophytes Using Diurnal Water Table Fluctuations: A Saturated-Unsaturated Flow Assessment (Water Resources Research Vol 41). I was tasked with quantifying the daily discharge from a spring complex. Surface flow was easy enough, but ET on-a-budget was going to be tricky. Thankfully we had a piezometer at a location in the spring that was no longer under artesian pressure, and this method (modified White method) was glorious. It also helped that Dr. Loheide was magnanimous in answering the bombardment of disorganized questions I threw at him (but so far everybody I’ve reached out to has been wonderful. Keep it up!).
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
This is getting too intimate. I will limit it to three items.
1. Geriatric Hip-Hop Dance Group (although I’m the oldest at 41, everybody else is probably mad I’m calling it geriatric)
2. Rehabilitate tendinosis in my right elbow (be smarter when climbing on aging/expanding bodies)
3. Get my butt kicked by Gaia (it is not a true vacation unless you come back physically weary from clambering around some remote wilderness where you’re not concerned about whether or not your water purification system is able to treat the rodenticide from a rogue marijuana grove upstream or if your children are within a suitable distance so as not to serve as mountain lion food).