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. In my spare time I enjoy cooking, skiing, and running.
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. This is of critical importance in forested watersheds, which provide storage and 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 their potential impacts to land uses and local water management infrastructure.
My research is focused on understanding the consequences of high-altitude forest fires to address the concerns above. Improving our knowledge of the effects of high-severity fires to water quality will allow us to better anticipate how downstream users, including agricultural and municipal, may be affected by changes in sediment (especially dissolved organic carbon), nutrient (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorous), and metal loads (e.g. iron). A concern for these fires is that other ecological disturbances prior to wildfire may be detrimental to forest recovery and may result in land-use changes over time. Monitoring ecological health during the period immediately after fires is expected to allow us to improve predictions of forest and vegetation recovery. Finally, increased carbon in water following fires has the potential to form toxic disinfection byproducts during water treatment. We intend to develop the analytical tools necessary to assess this risk and to inform water providers for management purposes.
This research is highly integrated with the Wilkins lab, which provides the microbial analysis necessary to understand temporal changes in carbon quality that helps us better understand the ecosystem as a whole. This data is complementary to the Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Mass Spectrometry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance data that is crucial to this research.
For more details about the research conducted in the Borch group please click here.