Research

Our research encompasses a wide range of study approaches and aquatic environments including streams, floodplains, wetlands, and estuaries. Some of our current and recent research is listed below:

 

Current projects:

Wetland functional response to hydrologic degradation and recovery

From the 1930’s to the early 2000’s the Tampa Bay, FL area depended on groundwater to meet their public water needs. Pumping was significant enough to draw down well field water tables however a new desalinization plant reduced pumping starting in 2008.  Using new and historical data, we are examining how well field wetlands have responded to recent hydrologic recovery.

Partners: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tampa Bay Water and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

 

Evaluating flow and associated ecological and recreational needs at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA)

CRNRA consists of 48 miles of river and 16 land based park units adjacent to the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta, GA. We are using previous published data and surveying local expertise to assess how flow affects various ecological and cultural resources at CRNRA. Information will be synthesized into a conceptual model to determine optimum flow regimes while accommodating downstream flows and other stakeholder needs.

Partners: U.S. National Park Service

 

Freshwater forested tidal wetlands along the lower Apalachicola River

Flow to the Apalachicola River is highly managed but critical to the hydrology of riparian wetlands including tidal forests. This study examined the combined influence of river and tidal hydrology on species composition, forest structure and wetland biogeochemistry. Partners: AU CESURI and Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.

 

Spatial models for mapping stream head channels

There is significant interest and policy implications associated with the headwater extent of stream channels across the United States. Lab members have been examining the use of topographic data coupled with field data to develop models to locate stream channel heads (the headwater origin of stream channels) across various physiographic regions of Alabama and Michigan. Partners:  Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation.

 

Recently completed projects:

Land use change effects on low-order creeks in the Alabama Coastal Plain

Much of the land along the Gulf of Mexico coast continues to change due to agriculture and urbanization. We are examining the influence of land use change on the water quality, hydrology, and benthic habitat of coastal creeks. Partners: Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, AU Water Resources Center, AU Center for Forest Sustainability, AU Dept. of Biological Sciences.

Effects of land conversion on coastal headwater wetlands

Along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, headwater wetlands represent areas of significant exchange between aquatic and terrestrial environments. Our research is examining how surrounding land use influences important wetland functions such as the maintenance of water quality, amphibian habitat, hydrology and carbon cycling. Partners: Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Week's Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and AU Center for Forest Sustainability.

The effect of shoreline development on salt marsh habitat

Shoreline development can alter drainage, increase pollution and fragment habitats. As urban growth continues in coastal areas, it is unclear how much the functional condition of salt marshes may change . Currently, we are examining how salt marshes and supported nekton species may be influenced by shoreline development.Partners: USDA-McIntire Stennis Program and the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Reserve.

Prospects for wetland impact and recovery from oil spills

There are immediate and long term concerns regarding oil spills effects on coastal ecosystems including salt marshes. Through a combination of field studies and mesocosm experiments, we are examining how oil weathering and exposure may influence current and future wetland environments after spills.Partners: Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative- Alabama Marine Environmental Science Consortium/Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and AU Department of Civil Engineering.