When I began with the PRIMENet (Acadia Research Watersheds) project, the ‘watersheds’ were, in fact, nothing more than two small pieces of flagging tied to trees near the chosen stream sampling site. Over the next three years, I led the teams that delineated watershed boundaries, created and deployed field gear, instrumented the watersheds with soil plots and throughfall, and rain samplers, coordinated with the U.S. Geological Survey to deploy stream gauging stations, and assisted with sampling for several of the individual research projects in addition to my own.
The goal of our research was to address research questions about mercury, acid rain, and nitrogen saturation developed from prior research. The project design was based on natural differences in forests and soils induced by an intense wildfire in one watershed in 1947. There is no evidence of fire in the reference watershed for several hundred years. We tested hypotheses about controls on surface water chemistry, and bioavailability of contaminants in the contrasting watersheds. The stream water chemistry patterns reflect, in part, the legacy of the intense fire, which, in turn, controls differences in forest vegetation and soil characteristics. These factors result in higher nitrogen and mercury flux from the unburned watershed, reflecting differences in atmospheric deposition, contrasting ecosystem pools of nitrogen and mercury, and inferred differences in internal cycling and bioavailabilty. My MS thesis dealt with throughfall chemistry in the paired watersheds.
These projects (1999-2002) were funded by US EPA and USGS BRD. The results were recently published in a special issue of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, for which I was a guest editor.
Follow-up funding from the National Park Service (NPS)-Natural Resource Challenge continued long-term monitoring of streams for Hg, N, and major ions, plus focused on modeling atmospheric deposition (particularly for mercury) based on landscape factors (2002-2005). Long-term stream monitoring was continued through 2006 with student citizen scientists.
I received one (of four) Canon National Parks Science Scholarships in 2003, for my PhD research project, entitled: Closing the loop on hydrologic and mass balances for a temperate forested park. This project evaluated mercury deposition, transport, and flux in snow. Read more about the Canon Scholars program here.