I like to think of water as the driving force behind how everything works in the natural world. Water shapes the landscape, determines habitats, acts as a solvent, transports particles and solutes, and is present in every living thing. Ecohydrology is focusing in on that relationship between water and life – how the presence, absence, and movement of water drives life, and how life uses and moves water.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
I have a B.S. in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College, an M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota, and an M.S. in Water Resources Engineering and Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from University of Colorado Boulder.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
My undergrad degree was in chemistry, with a lot of math and physics, but I kept wavering on my major because I wanted to study everything. Near the end of college I learned about the existence of biogeochemistry and thought it was cool that there was this field that let you combine a bunch of different sciences, but assumed I’d missed my chance to major in it (my college had no classes in the earth/environmental sciences).
After my M.S. I joined an AmeriCorps program and spent several months in Louisiana and Mississippi doing Hurricane Katrina recovery work. It opened my eyes to how engineering decisions we make about our landscape and, more specifically, waterways, can end up having severe consequences for both ecosystems and people. I learned a lot that year and when it ended I decided to go find if there was some way I could use my science background to study water, the environment, and human-environment interactions. Turns out there was this entire field of science that did just that! As soon as I started taking classes in graduate school I realized that the hydrologic sciences was a perfect fit for me – I loved that I could use everything I learned in chemistry and math and physics and biology and integrate them into trying to understand how watersheds work. Lately I’ve been moving away from more natural systems and focusing my research on human-impacted systems, trying to get back to the human-environmental interactions that initially inspired me to go this route.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
Urban systems. I think historically a lot of hydrology research focused on understanding everything possible in whatever cool “natural” catchment was nearby, and we learned a ton from that. But just in the 10 years I’ve been in this field I’ve seen more and more research focused on understanding urban systems. Urban ecohydrology takes all the complications of hydrology in a natural system and adds human engineering/infrastructure on top of it. Understanding it is a fantastically complicated interdisciplinary puzzle and one where you can really see the potential for your research to help people.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
I chose to get my PhD from an interdisciplinary environmental studies department in the hope that it would help me learn how my science could fit into larger society and decision-making. I went into my second semester loving everything I was learning but frustrated at what felt like a complete rift between science and policy. Then I read Kate Brauman’s The Nature and Value of Ecosystem Services: An Overview Highlighting Hydrologic Services and it completely opened up this whole new perspective for me. It was my first exposure to the idea of ecosystem services, and framed them through the lens of hydrology. I loved that there was a way to take all the things I valued as a scientist and someone who loved the natural world, and couch them in policy language.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
I’m still working on finding that elusive early tenure-track work/life balance. I learned to play ice hockey in graduate school and still try to get on the ice when I can. I crochet (afghans, hats, scarves), usually while watching some science fiction tv show, and take my dog on regular walks/runs. I used to play board/card games frequently but have been having trouble finding people to play with since I moved to Ohio.