Research Interests

My research interests have been focused on "critical zone" structure and processes at landscape, hillslope, and soil profile scales. The critical zone, as I conceptualize it, is an expanded terrestrial ecosystem perspective of the Earth's surface spanning bedrock up to the lower atmosphere. I am particularly interested in the processes of land cover and land cover change as they both respond to and effect critical zone structure from large to fine spatial scales. To this end I've developed a keen interest in geomorphology using remotely sensed data including LiDAR, and soil science utilizing sensors and dataloggers for monitoring soil gasses and moisture as well as various soil lab and field techniques and technologies like gas chromatography, X-ray computed tomography (see video left), and the design and construction of oxygen and carbon dioxide measurement tools. I always enjoy learning new tools and techniques! For example, I’ve recently taken the dive into 3D printing for the production of some obscure/uncommon soil sieves for use in measuring soil aggregate stability (images and video below right). I’m not afraid to branch out and take a leap or two into new territory, I also know when to ask to for help though and can measure my own abilities.

I would describe myself as an empirical scientist in the traditional sense that I love having new ideas or hypotheses arise, designing an experimental or observational framework to investigate, and getting outside to see what is happening in the real world. While I whole-heartedly embrace and participate in the publication and sharing of data in the age of "big-data" and bigger models, I feel there are irreplaceable and un-replicable insights gained from first-hand experience in a research area. My dissertation fieldwork at the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory (CCZO) in South Carolina seeks to quantify belowground regeneration in an old-field post-agricultural landscape. Reference hardwood forests, continuously cultivated agricultural fields, and old-field secondary pine forests form a land cover change chronosequence and across these land cover contrasts colleagues and I have monitored soil respiration via oxygen and carbon dioxide measurements down to 5m. We're currently measuring and comparing saturated hydraulic conductivity and soil moisture several meters in depth and we've conducted 2 years of quarterly samples of soil invertebrates investigating how soil ecology has responded to old-field succession and the regrowth of forests for 80-100 years. Many other studies like investigations of terrain roughness, soil texture, soil bulk density and porosity are underway to help us understand critical zone regeneration at the CCZO.

Future Directions

I've long dreamt of conducting something like applied critical zone research whereby I might integrate my interests in tropical forests, people, and agricultural abandonment by working to facilitate the regeneration and reestablishment of tropical forests in abandoned eroded areas. It would be amazing to work to foster the reestablishment of ecosystems while also monitoring their above and below-ground dynamics through time.