At Utah State, I am currently working with ecologists and other geomorphologists to evaluate the long-term impacts of the Twitchell Canyon wildfire, and subsequent debris flows, on the habitat and populations of the native Bonneville cutthroat trout in the Tushar Mountains. Wildfires are commonly observed to cause the extirpation of fish populations, however, the mechanisms by which fires impact salmonid populations are still not well understood. Furthermore, the increasing risk of wildfire and decreasing stream connectivity throughout the Intermountain West is driving an increased risk to the viability of endemic and isolated fish populations. Thus, my work is focused on understanding post-wildfire sediment dynamics, analyzing previously collected data from detailed habitat and population monitoring, and developing a new framework to link spatially explicit, temporally variably habitat metrics with models of population viability analysis.
At the University of Texas, I worked with Dr. Joel Johnson on a field-based project in the Kohala Peninsula of the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Across this dormant, volcanic landscape, the orographic lifting of moist air masses results in an upwards of 4.5 m/yr of rainfall on the windward side of the peninsula and as little as 0.2 m/yr on the leeward side. Exploiting this extreme spatial pattern of precipitation, I found that increases in local mean annual precipitation drive chemical weathering, which physically weakens rock exposed in streambeds. Thus, rivers have the potential to erode more easily and rapidly in wetter regions. These findings present a mechanism by which the geometry of bedrock river networks could be influenced by local climate. Moreover, it was demonstrated that this link between local rainfall and river erosion better predicted the long-term erosion rates for the rivers across the Kohala Peninsula. Quantifying these climate-erosion relationships is critical for informing models that aim to predict the complex feedbacks between climate, erosion and tectonics in actively uplifting mountain ranges.
While at the University of Texas, I also participated in other geomorphology research. Some of this work took me to the Henry Mountains in Utah, as well as Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in Idaho. My contribution to this research included terrestrial lidar scanning of evolving fluvial landscapes and tracking stream sediment with RFID particles.
Prior to graduate school, I worked for Dr. Stephen DeLong at the University of Arizona as a research and field technician. I assisted Dr. DeLong in the design and development stages for the construction of the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) at Biosphere2. I also worked to help establish a number of field sites across the southwest US and Mexico. At these sites we deployed environmental sensor networks in order to monitor geomorphic and hydrologic processes in actively eroding landscapes. Additionally, we measured event-scale erosion using terrestrial lidar. These projects included post-wildfire erosion of steep mountainous gullies, monsoon-driven erosion of arid badlands and arroyos, the evolution of an earthflow in northern California, and stream restoration projects in both Arizona and Mexico.
In my undergraduate, I wrote a senior thesis on the effects of weathering on the cross-sectional erodibility of bedrock channels. I measured both the physical and chemical effects of weathering processes in rivers located in Virginia, Colorado and Utah. This research was led by Dr. Greg Hancock at The College of William & Mary.