What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
I started my scientific career at the Sonoran Institute of Technology (ITSON) with Professor Enrico Yépez. My bachelors and masters theses focused on studying evapotranspiration partitioning using stable isotopes and ecosystems flux measurements in the Sonoran desert of northwestern México. During that time, I also had the experience of working with Professor Enrique R. Vivoni working on hydrological models at Arizona State University. These experiences gave me the motivation to pursue a doctoral degree in vegetation dynamics and the carbon and water cycles of semi-arid terrestrial ecosystems.
My Ph.D. research encompassed the study of two iconic semi-arid ecosystems of central Australia: a woodland and a savanna ecosystem (both evergreen ecosystems). I have been fortunate to investigate varying spatial-scales, ranging from leaf to whole ecosystems contrasting (i) plant physiological strategies of co-occurring species, (ii) water-use efficiency, (iii) the stomatal optimization theory and related models. I used eddy covariance data to explore at the ecosystem scale, the relationships among net ecosystem productivity and evapotranspiration with water availability, meteorological variables and vegetation dynamics. At leaf scale, I have studied resource-use efficiencies of multiple co-existing tree species (water-use efficiency, light-use efficiency, and carbon and nitrogen-use efficiencies). These studies combined both intense fieldwork data collection and laboratory analyses across different seasons.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
Water. It all started with water. Water is a big issue in my hometown in Sonora as it is a problem in many places around the world. My time at ITSON gave me the opportunity to work and engage in conversations with a group of exceptional hydrologists such as Dr. Jaime Garatuza and Dr. Enrique R. Vivoni, Dr. Julio Rodrigo, and Dr. Christopher Watts. Intense fieldwork campaigns in the Sonora desert brought the relationships among plants, water, and carbon to my attention. Plants can do a lot with a tiny amount of water and become highly productive when water is available, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. By assessing contrasting eco-hydrological behaviors in dominant plant species under field conditions, we can improve our understanding of ecosystem-scale carbon and water fluxes.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
As I mentioned, water is a scare resource especially in semi-arid regions. We need to understand water movement, transport, and use. Societies must be more efficient about water-use and be able to track the water cycle’s components in order to estimate better budgets for better practices and management. Plants can tell us a lot about these concerns! Plants have evolved extreme capabilities for water-use, movement and storage. Additionally, there is an important feedback between vegetation and local climate, for example via evapotranspiration and we should be able to quantify at different scales. Likewise, there is a need of understanding how plants are coping with a changing environment. An improved understanding of current and future eco-hydrological processes is a central component to progress in the development of programs for ecosystem adaptation and mitigation in the face of a changing environment, especially global hydrological change. I think that by studying functional ecological attributes in plants and entire ecosystems (or basin-scale), we will contribute to refining water management in any given region.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
One of my favorite papers is entitle “Linking plant and ecosystem functional biogeography” by Markus Reichstein and colleagues (2014). This publication highlights the need to understand plant traits in order to better explain the variation and uncertainties in biogeochemical processes and climate. The paper pointed out interesting needs and current technologies to address questions related to vegetation interactions with land-surface processes. This paper is also highly motivating and encourages collaborative efforts among scientists of different fields to achieve common goals when investigation biogeosciences’ processes.
Reichstein, M., Bahn, M., Mahecha, M.D., Kattge, J., Baldocchi, D.D. (2014). Linking plant and ecosystem functional biogeography. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 111, 13697-13702.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
I really enjoy being outdoors and training as much as I can. Running has been a good way to explore new areas around my current location(s) as I move between countries and now being a postdoc in the USA.