Our natural environment is continually changing in response to a complex suite of influences, such as climate forcing, resource extraction, and urbanization pressure. In a changing environment, it is important to understand how the services ecosystems provide, both directly and indirectly to humankind, will change. As a limnologist, I study how terrestrial and atmospheric changes alter biogeochemical fluxes and aquatic processes in inland waters. I am interested in ecosystem processes and global change at a range of scales. My research program is built around the overarching question “How do inland waters influence the globe and how do global processes influence inland waters?”
I am particularly interested in hydrological processes in areas where the hydrological cycle is poised to change dramatically over the coming decades. In temperate ecosystems, inland waters provide critical resources and are threatened by climate change and urbanization. In polar environments, retreating glaciers and ice sheets, melting permafrost, and increasing precipitation have the potential to boost nutrient delivery to surface waters and stimulate groundwater flow. Questions that I am interested in can be classified as hydrological (How will changing climate influence lake physics?), hydrogeological (What is the role of groundwater connectivity in shaping surface water characteristics?), biogeochemical (How will heightened primary productivity in lakes act as a carbon sink on a large scale?), and anthropogenic (To what extent will development alter or degrade freshwater ecosystems?).
My research blends field data collection with large scale GIS, statistical, and modeling techniques. The magnitude and complexity of data required to study lakes at a large spatial scale demands collaborative cross-disciplinary science, new observational technologies, and supporting infrastructure. I have embraced the term ecological informatics to describe the portfolio of skills necessary to work in the ‘era of big data’ and believe we are seeing a shift in the field of limnology in how we view the world’s freshwater resources.