At Utah State, I have a number of current and on-going projects related to wildfire, sediment, and ecology. First, I have worked with developed a watershed-scale geomorphic model that links post-wildfire debris flow generation with fluvial sediment routing. The first application of this model evaluated post-wildfire erosion and sediment dynamics after the Twitchell Canyon Fire (2010) in the Tushar Mountains, UT (currently in review). Now, as part of an NSF-funded project, I will be further developing this model and using it to evaluate the vulnerability of reservoirs across the state of Utah to post-wildfire sedimentation.
Collaborating with ecologists at USU, I am also developing models to assess the impact of post-wildfire habitat disturbance on populations of native cutthroat trout. This work has involved the analysis of multi-year monitoring data, as well as the development of new modeling frameworks linking spatially explicit, abiotic habitat disturbance with ecological models of population viability.
For my doctoral research, I worked with Dr. Joel Johnson, Dr. Nicole Gasparini, and Dr. Leonard Sklar on a field-based study across the Kohala Peninsula on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Exploiting an extreme spatial gradient of precipitation, I found that increases in rainfall can promote chemical weathering and physically weaken rocks exposed in streambeds. This allows rivers in wetter regions of the island to erode more easily and rapidly. These findings highlight one mechanism by which variations in climate can influence the evolution of bedrock rivers. Quantifying climate-erosion relationships is critical for informing models that predict the complex feedbacks between climate, erosion and tectonics in actively uplifting mountain ranges.
While at the University of Texas, I also assisted in other exciting geomorphology research. Some of this work took me to the Henry Mountains in Utah, as well as Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in Idaho. My contributions to this research included terrestrial lidar scanning of evolving fluvial landscapes and tracking stream sediment with RFID particles.
Prior to graduate school, I worked with Dr. Stephen DeLong at the University of Arizona. I assisted in the design and development stages for the construction of the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) at Biosphere2. I also helped establish a number of field sites across the southwestern US and Mexico. At these sites, we deployed environmental sensor networks that would monitor geomorphic and hydrologic processes in actively eroding landscapes. Additionally, we measured event-scale erosion processes using terrestrial lidar. These projects included post-wildfire erosion in steep, first-order watersheds, monsoon-driven erosion of arid badlands and arroyos, the evolution of earthflows in northern California, and stream restoration projects in both Arizona and Mexico.
During my undergraduate, I wrote a senior thesis evaluating the effects of chemical weathering on patterns of cross-sectional erodibility in bedrock channels. I measured both the physical and chemical properties of bedrock exposed in rivers located in Virginia, Colorado, and Utah. This research was led by Dr. Greg Hancock at The College of William & Mary.