By definition, ecohydrology refers to the study of interactions between ecosystems and the water cycle. However, I understand the term to more broadly represent the important role water and hydrology play in living systems, including human society – from water and food security to recreation and the sustainability of ecosystems we depend on.
What are your undergraduate and graduate degrees in?
Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in Civil and Environmental Engineering. My undergraduate curriculum was focused in traditional civil engineering disciplines and my primary interests were in environmental chemistry and microbiology. As a PhD student, my coursework and research transitioned more toward ecology, hydrology, and modeling.
How did you arrive at working in/thinking about ecohydrology?
I’ve always seen it as more or less a random sequence of fortunate events. In my first job out of college, I worked as a hydraulic and hydrologic modeler at an engineering consulting firm in Boston. This was my first experience in hydrology outside of the classroom and I really enjoyed it. While in Boston, I got involved with the local Engineers Without Borders chapter and had the opportunity to meet a few graduate students studying hydrology and ecohydrology in the Parsons Lab at MIT. I was considering a PhD at the time and they had great things to say about the program. Lo and behold, I was accepted, joined Rafael Bras’ research group, and 11 years later I feel lucky to have had that opportunity.
What do you see as an important emerging area of ecohydrology?
I think an intriguing and important next chapter for ecohydrology is the study of urban systems. Cities are creating and reclaiming green space through green stormwater infrastructure, stream restoration, urban agriculture, and redevelopment. Along these lines, I think 2 interesting research challenges will be (1) to develop methods to design and manage the water and nutrient cycles in green infrastructure and (2) to study the trade-offs and synergies between green and traditional grey infrastructure.
Do you have a favorite ecohydrology paper? Describe/explain.
One paper that had a big impression on me as a young graduate student was Caylor et al. (2005), which quantified the spatial organization of soil, water balance, and vegetation in the Rio Salado river basin in New Mexico. One conclusion of this paper is that the observed spatial pattern of vegetation in the basin appears to be a combination of random processes and the vegetation actively minimizing their exposure to water stress, which depends on their location within the watershed. It integrates several major themes in ecohydrology – random variability, pattern and process, and optimality.
Caylor, K.K., Manfreda, S. and Rodriguez-Iturbe, I., 2005. On the coupled geomorphological and ecohydrological organization of river basins. Advances in Water Resources, 28(1), pp.69-86.
What do you do for fun (apart from ecohydrology)?
I try to spend as much time as I can outdoors, either running, hiking, or biking. Since moving near Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, I’ve recently picked up kayaking and sailing. When I’m at home, I like to cook and play guitar and piano.