Holly Roth

Holly Roth

Ph.D. Candidate



Professional Links



Although I now call Memphis, TN home, my childhood as a military brat meant I got to experience life in all corners of the United States before I finally got to choose where I wanted to go. Following my graduation from a high school in Albuquerque, NM, I went on to pursue dual degrees in Spanish Language and Culture Studies and Chemistry from Emory & Henry College in Southwest Virginia. During my time there I was able to cultivate my passion for science while enjoying a variety of outdoor activities in the Appalachian region. In August 2018 I traded the Appalachians for the Rockies and moved to Fort Collins to begin my PhD research in Chemistry with Dr. Thomas Borch, which I completed in 2023. I am currently pursuing postgraduate research in the Borch lab, shifting my research focus from wildfires to sustainable solutions for produced water and greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas industry. In my spare time I enjoy cooking, skiing, and running.

Project Summary

Graduate Research

Although wildfire is an important part of nutrient cycling, contemporary changes in fuels, climate, and local weather patterns have led to bigger fires that last longer and cause more damage than previous fire regimes. New fire patterns are of critical importance in forested watersheds, which provide carbon storage and water filtration services with an estimated value of $4.1 trillion annually, and as such are crucial to water security. Post-fire concerns include effects on water quality, ecosystem health, and drinking water treatment for downstream communities. Through the study of various forest fire sites in Colorado, our research team intends to identify the associated health and safety implications of high-severity fires and determine the potential impacts of wildfire to land uses and local water management infrastructure. My research is focused on understanding the consequences of high-altitude forest fires to developing the analytical tools necessary to assess potential health risks and to inform water providers for management purposes.

Current Research

After completing my PhD studies in May of 2023, I transitioned my research focus to two projects related to the oil and gas industry. The first project is centered around molecular analysis and compositional evaluation of oilfield produced water in Eastern Colorado. My other current research is focused on the capacity of biochar to lower greenhouse gas emission and remove/sequester carbon in abandoned oil and gas wells.


Roth, H.K.; McKenna, A.M.; Simpson, M.J.; Chen, H.; Srikanthan, N.; Fegel, T.S.; Nelson, A.R.; Rhoades, C.C.; Wilkins, M.J.; Borch, T. “Effects of burn severity on organic nitrogen and carbon chemistry in high-elevation forest soils” Soil & Environmental Health. 2023. DOI: 10.1016/j.seh.2023.100023
Caiafa, M.V.; Nelson, A.R.; Borch, T.; Roth, H.K.; Fegel, T.S.; Rhoades, C.C.; Wilkins, M.J.; Glassman, S.I. “Distinct fungal and bacterial response to fire severity and soil depth across a ten-year wildfire chronosequence in beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests” Ecology and Management. 2023. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2023.121160
Roth, H.K.; Nelson, A.R.; McKenna, A.M.; Fegel, T.S.; Young, R.B.; Rhoades, C.C.; Wilkins, M.J.; Borch, T. “Impact of beaver ponds on biogeochemistry of organic carbon and nitrogen along a fire-impacted stream” Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. 2022. DOI: 10.1039/D2EM00184E
Nelson, A.R.; Narrowe, A.B.; Rhoades, C.C.; Fegel, T.S.; Daly, R.A.; Roth, H.K.; Chu, R.K.; Amundson’ K.K.; Geonczy, S.E.; Emerson, J.B.; Young, R.B.; Steindorff, A.S.; Mondo, S.J.; Grigoriev, I.V.; Salamov, A.; Borch, T.; Wilkins, M.J. “A genome resolved view of wildfire legacy impacts on the soil microbiome” Nature Microbiology. 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41564-022-01203-y
Roth, H.K; Borch, T.; Young, R.B.; Bahureksa, W.; Blakney, G.T.; Nelson, A.R.; Wilkins, M.J.; McKenna, A.M. “Enhanced Speciation of Pyrogenic Organic Matter from Wildfires Enabled by 21 T FT-ICR Mass Spectrometry” Analytical Chemistry. 2022. DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c05018
Young, R.B.; Pica, N.E.; Sharifan, H.; Chen, H.; Roth, H.K.; Blakney, G.T.; Borch, T.; Higgins, C.P.; Kornuc, J.J.; McKenna, A.M.; Blotevogel, J. “PFAS Analysis with Ultrahigh Resolution 21 T FT-ICR MS: Suspect and Nontargeted Screening with Unrivaled Mass Resolving Power and Accuracy” Environmental Science and Technology. 2022. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c08143

people standing near alpine pond