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Brandon Blue proposal defense, Thursday, 9:30 am

Watershed Hydrogeology Lab student Brandon Blue will defend his project proposal on Thursday morning, March 1st, at 9:30 am in Cameron room 250. Brandon’s proposal is titled: Seasonal Urban Stream Temperature Response to Storm Events Within the Northern Piedmont of North Carolina.

Please join us for the public presentation of the proposed work or wish Brandon well when you see him.

REU Opportunity on Stormwater Management and Ecosystem Function

A National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer fellowship is open at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. We invite applications from qualified, highly motivated undergraduate students from U.S. colleges/universities to participate in a 12-week lab and field based summer research experience. The program runs from May 23 – August 12 but start and end dates are flexible. The student will participate in an NSF-funded project studying the effects of stormwater management on ecosystem function (e.g. nutrient dynamics, biological integrity, temperature attenuation and hydrology) in urban streams. The student will learn field and laboratory techniques, experimental design and data analysis to develop his/her own research project within this topic. The student will be required to write a report in the format of a scientific paper and give a presentation on their project at the end of the summer. The student will also be encouraged to submit an abstract of their work for presentation at a scientific meeting (e.g. American Geophysical Union). The REU provides a $450/week stipend for living expenses and travel costs to the scientific meeting will be covered.

Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited undergraduate institution and a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Students from underrepresented groups and institutions with limited research opportunities are especially encouraged to apply. Interested applicants should send: (1) a statement of interest, (2) resume, (3) unofficial transcript, (4) one letter of recommendation and (5) contact information for one additional reference. The statement of interest should include the following information: (i) professional goals, (ii) interest in position and (iii) relevant experience and be sent to Dr. Sara McMillan (smcmillan (at) The letter of recommendation should be sent directly from the recommender (please include the applicant’s name in the subject line for emails). Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applications will be accepted through April 22, 2011.

AGU Abstract: Spatial heterogeneity in isotopic signatures of baseflow in small watersheds: implications for understanding watershed hydrology

In a few weeks, I’ll be giving the following talk at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in a session on Groundwater/Surface Water Interactions: Dynamics and Patterns Across Spatial and Temporal Scales. My talk will be in Moscone West 3014 at 11:05 am on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010.

Spatial heterogeneity in isotopic signatures of baseflow in small watersheds: implications for understanding watershed hydrology
A. J. Jefferson

Time series of stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen in stream water are widely used to characterize watershed transit times and flowpaths, but synoptic sampling of multiple locations within a watershed can also provide useful information about heterogeneity of stream water sources and groundwater-surface water interactions that may affect interpretations of watershed hydrology. Here I present results of same-day baseflow sampling campaigns in low-relief, 0.1 to 100 km2 watersheds. More than half of less than 5 km2 forested and urban watersheds sampled in this study had variability in ?2H exceeding 2‰ and ?18O variability exceeding 1‰, substantially larger than the analytical uncertainty. In some cases, the heterogeneity was extreme, with ?2H varying by >10‰ over 150 m in one stream. Some isotopic perturbations occur in conjunction with stream conductivity and temperature changes, and such zones likely reflect localized contributions from fractured crystalline bedrock. In the urban 100 km2 watershed, mainstem baseflow isotopes were relatively homogeneous, but ?2H varied by more than 10‰ across tributaries, suggesting that subwatersheds are fed by water with different sources or transit times. Some urban streams were isotopically similar to the municipal water supply, suggesting that water main leakage and wastewater discharge may be locally significant contributors to baseflow. The isotopic heterogeneity of small streams and watersheds suggests that an understanding of groundwater-stream interactions is needed to correctly interpret isotope-based inferences about watershed transit times and flowpaths.

Graduate Assistantships: Biogeochemistry, Stream Ecology, and Hydrology at UNC Charlotte, NC

Come work with me!

Research assistantships are available at the MS or Ph.D. level at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to participate in a recently funded NSF project investigating the effects of stormwater management on ecosystem function in urban watersheds.  The overall goal is to better understand and predict the impacts of stormwater BMPs on receiving streams over a range of spatial and temporal scales through a combination of field based research and watershed scale ecological modeling.  This interdisciplinary project will link (1) mass-balance based monitoring of individual BMPs, (2) ecosystem processes (nutrient uptake, metabolism, temperature and biological indices) in the receiving stream and (3) monitored and modeled watershed outputs of flow, nitrogen, and carbon.

Applicants interested in aquatic biogeochemistry, hydrology, stream ecology and/or watershed modeling are encouraged to apply.  Students will have flexibility to develop independent research questions within the context of this project that broadly address the interactions among hydrology, biogeochemistry and ecology in aquatic ecosystems.

Qualifications:  degree in biology, ecology, environmental engineering, hydrology or related field is required.  Successful applicants should have a strong interest in working in an interdisciplinary research environment, be creative, motivated and capable of working well both independently and cooperatively and possess strong communication and quantitative skills. Competitive stipends and tuition waivers are available for highly motivated students.  For more information on admission requirements and deadlines, visit  Additional information about the McMillan Lab can be found at  Opportunities exist for collaboration with the labs of Sandra Clinton and Anne Jefferson at UNC Charlotte who are collaborators on the project.

Interested students with strong motivation to succeed in research should contact Sara McMillan via email (  Please submit a statement of career goals and research interests, full CV, unofficial transcripts and GRE scores, and contact information for three potential references.  Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until suitable candidates are found. The anticipated start date is flexible, but should be sometime between January and August 2011.

Urban streams with green walls

ResearchBlogging.orgWill Dalen Rice and a friendNote: This post is a collaborative effort by Anne and guest blogger Will Dalen Rice, a graduate student in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at UNC Charlotte. He had the misfortune of taking a couple of courses from Anne this semester and has become a certified stream junkie, going out on rainy nights to see how high Charlotte’s urban streams are running.

Most cities were started around the idea of available surface water resources. Development and misuse of our streams (ex: “dilution is the solution to pollution”) has resulted in the modern urban stream. These streams are straight and good at carrying storm water, full of sediment and pollutants, and they lack good habitat for plants and animals. Now that we are beginning to notice how degraded and trashed these city waterways are though, scientists and engineers are beginning to attempt to address the form and function of these waterways to hopefully return them to a more “natural” (or at least aesthetically pleasing) state. While there are many stream restoration techniques, they often involve mechanical manipulation of the stream channel and banks and the planting of riparian plants along the stream corridor. As the streamside ecosystem redevelops, the idea is that health of the stream will also improve (leave it to nature to clean up our messes, given the chance).

For large urban streams, the standard practices in stream and habitat restoration are sometimes not possible, often because decades of infrastructure development have pinned the stream into a narrow corridor. So other approaches need to be considered, and Robert Francis and Simon Hoggart of King’s College London discuss ways that existing artificial structures can be put to work to mitigate some of the ecological impacts of urbanization. In the specific case of the River Thames in England, habitat development has been observed on man-made structures, and furthermore, certain types of man-made structures grow life better than others. Francis and Hoggart show that indeed plants (and therefore animals) can develop in a riparian zone better when brick and wood and rougher materials are used over concrete and steel. If concrete and steel already exist, adding brick and wood can further trap sediment for habitat growth (like gluing a cup of dirt to a steel wall). They suggest that this should become standard practice when thinking of restoration efforts in large, urban waterways.

The NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center says Thornton Creek in downtown Seattle exemplifies “the challenges facing rehabilitating urban streams.” But a look at the NOAA picture below shows that this stream is also emblematic of a riparian ecosystem that has developed within the constraints of the existing structures and maybe even a spontaneous model for the sort of restoration that Francis and Hoggart envision.

Seattle urban stream from NOAA website

Francis, R., & Hoggart, S. (2008). Waste Not, Want Not: The Need to Utilize Existing Artificial Structures for Habitat Improvement Along Urban Rivers Restoration Ecology, 16 (3), 373-381 DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2008.00434.x

Research assistantship available on stream restoration, nitrogen dynamics, urban streams

An opportunity to do graduate work at UNC Charlotte with excellent and enthusiastic aquatic biogeochemist Sara McMillan:

We are seeking qualified applicants for a graduate assistantship at the MS or Ph.D. level, starting in the summer or fall of 2010 (summer preferred) in Dr. Sara McMillan’s laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Our work broadly addresses the interactions between ecology and biogeochemistry in aquatic ecosystems. This position is funded through a collaborative project with Dr. McMillan and Dr. Greg Jennings at North Carolina State University investigating the impacts of stream restoration on nitrogen dynamics in urban streams. Field and laboratory experiments will focus on reach-scale nutrient retention, microbial biogeochemistry (i.e. denitrification and nitrification) and microbial diversity. Opportunities exist to develop research aims that align with the project for the individual research. Preferred qualifications include a strong background in biology and hydrology, experience with field and laboratory research, and good teamwork and communication skills. The position is funded for 1 year at $18,000 with possibilities for future funding.

If interested contact: Dr. Sara McMillan ( for more information.

On the top of my "to read" list

Every week there’s a virtual flood of enticing looking papers from the tables of contents that arrive in my in-box. Here are the ones that look most enticing to me this week:

Jencso, K. G., B. L. McGlynn, M. N. Gooseff, S. M. Wondzell, K. E. Bencala, and L. A. Marshall (2009), Hydrologic connectivity between landscapes and streams: Transferring reach? and plot?scale understanding to the catchment scale, Water Resour. Res., 45, W04428, doi:10.1029/2008WR007225.

Hrachowitz, M., C. Soulsby, D. Tetzlaff, J. J. C. Dawson, and I. A. Malcolm (2009), Regionalization of transit time estimates in montane catchments by integrating landscape controls, Water Resour. Res., 45, W05421, doi:10.1029/2008WR007496.

Navarre-Sitchler, A., C. I. Steefel, L. Yang, L. Tomutsa, and S. L. Brantley (2009), Evolution of porosity and diffusivity associated with chemical weathering of a basalt clast, J. Geophys. Res., 114, F02016, doi:10.1029/2008JF001060.

Foulquier, A., F. Malard, S. Barraud, and J. Gibert. 2009. Thermal influence of urban groundwater recharge from stormwater infiltration basins. Hydrological Processes. 23(12): 1701-1713. doi: 10.1002/hyp.7305

Tague, C.L. 2009. Assessing climate change impacts on alpine stream-flow and vegetation water use: mining the linkages with subsurface hydrologic processes. Hydrological Processes. 23(12): 1815-1819. doi:10.1002/hyp.7288

Schenk, E.R. and C.R. Hupp. 2009 Legacy Effects of Colonial Millponds on Floodplain Sedimentation, Bank Erosion, and Channel Morphology, Mid-Atlantic, USA. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 45(3):597-606. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2009.00308.x

Jacob, J.S. and R. Lopez. 2009 Is Denser Greener? An Evaluation of Higher Density Development as an Urban Stormwater-Quality Best Management Practice. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 45(3):687-701. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2009.00316.x

Fraley, L.M., A.J. Miller, and C. Welty. 2009. Contribution of In-Channel Processes to Sediment Yield of an Urbanizing Watershed. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 45(3):748-766. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2009.00320.x

Some of these papers will be useful for my teaching (Fraley et al. and Schenk and Hupp), one will be useful in revising a paper from my Ph.D. research (Navarre-Sitchler et al.), and the rest are of general research for on-going projects or projects in the design stage. I hope they give you a flavor of the sort of things that set spinning the research gears in my mind.