I consider ecohydrology as an interdisciplinary science that studies the mutual interaction between the water cycle and the biosphere, including the human society. The interdisciplinary approach of ecohydrology is important in understanding the impacts of climatic changes and anthropogenic activities on the water resources in the context of global environmental change, land use change, global desertification/land degradation, urbanization, and the food-energy-water nexus.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
I have a B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences from Kerala Agricultural University (India) and an MS and PhD in Environmental Sciences (with specialization in Hydrology) from University of Virginia.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
My dissertation research (working with Paolo D’Odorico at the University of Virginia) was focused on the ecohydrological and geomorphic feedbacks accompanying vegetation changes in drylands and their impact on soil and water degradation. I was intrigued by the role of vegetation patterns in structuring the water and sediment transport in water-limited systems. As a postdoctoral researcher with Travis Huxman at the University of Arizona, I had the opportunity to expand my research into the ecophysiological underpinnings of drought-induced plant mortality and its implications for desertification. After that I worked with David Lobell at Stanford University on the environmental impacts (on land and water resources) of large-scale solar energy development in drylands and explored the opportunities for integrating solar energy projects with agriculture/biofuels. I think these diverse projects have enabled me to think about research questions at the interface of water, vegetation and human dimensions.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
I think understanding the role of water in the complex food-energy systems is an important emerging area of ecohydrology. With the rapidly growing population and increasing living standards, providing food and energy services to billions of people with limited (or unreliable) water availability is a critical challenge. To this end, I see an integration of different disciplines including big data analysis, social and behavioral sciences which are valuable in generating new research questions and in developing new methodologies to understand food-energy systems.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
This is a difficult question. I have several papers in mind, but I would like to mention two papers which I came across early on in my graduate program. I think these papers really gave me a broad overview/synthesis of some of the pioneering works exploring the spatial and temporal links among water, vegetation and soil in terrestrial ecosystems, in particular drylands.
Noy-Meyer (1973), Desert Ecosystems: Environment and Producers in Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics and Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe (2000), Ecohydrology: A hydrologic perspective of climate‐soil‐vegetation dynamics in Water Resources Research.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
I like traveling and exploring different cuisines and cultures. I am interested in green initiatives in urban areas, including community gardening, composting and rainwater harvesting.