Water Fellows

Photo courtesy of Meagan Schipanski, Soil and Crop Sciences, CSU, 2016 Water Fellow project: Improving Precipitation Use Efficiency in Dryland Cropping Systems

Each year CoWC funds a select number of Water Fellows through our CSU Competitive Grant Program. These awards provide a unique opportunity to accelerate progress in research, teaching, and engagement for faculty and research staff at CSU. Since 2013, we have funded 16 fellows on projects from diverse departments including Journalism and Technical Communication; Geosciences; Agriculture and Resource Economics; Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; and a range of other disciplines.

Read about our newest grantees HERE!

Past Fellows 2020- 2021

Ryan Morrison  |  Assistant Professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Toward understanding the global impacts of human activities on floodplain integrity

Floodplain integrity can be defined as the ability of a floodplain to support essential geomorphic, hydrologic, and ecological functions that maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services. Although it is clear that humans have globally altered floodplain integrity, robust methods for quantifying the overall impact of human activities on floodplain processes are lacking.

Through this research, Dr. Morrison will develop and apply a methodology to evaluate floodplain integrity by leveraging initial results from my previous work while collaborating with international researchers that provide additional expertise. Specifically, my objectives for this research are to: 1) Identify and compile global datasets that can serve as proxies to human impacts to major floodplain functions; 2) Develop and apply a methodology for assessing global floodplain integrity; and 3) Build stronger international relationships to expand his research network and leverage for future proposals.

To meet these objectives, Dr. Morrison will work with a student and international collaborators to co-host a workshop at the Water Resource Research and Documentation Centre in Perugia, Italy, where they will compile relevant large-scale datasets necessary to evaluate floodplain integrity. By quantifying reductions to floodplain functionality at broad scales, this work can help target management efforts towards the most impaired floodplains.

Blake Osborn  |  Water Resources Specialist, Colorado Water Center

Integrating low-tech, process-based restoration techniques to a degraded perennial stream system: A community-driven research model

Many of Colorado’s watersheds have been impacted by land-use patterns that negatively impact stream systems at the reach and watershed scale. Many rural Colorado economies and communities depend on these land uses, which include agricultural applications, resource extraction, and residential development. In some cases, these land uses have led to negative impacts on water quality and wildlife, and has significantly altered the stream system’s hydrology. Low-tech, process-based restoration offers a promising approach to improving these systems.

Osborn and partners have developed, and are currently implementing, a community-supported research collaboration between local water experts, Canon City High School, private landowners, local municipal water providers, and NGO’s. The project includes the creation of a new class at the local high school (developed specifically for this project), working with private landowners to restore a severely degraded and entrenched stream system, and applying new stream restoration techniques under academic research standards to quantify our efforts. The goal is to educate a new generation on Colorado’s complex water issues, increase hydrologic function of a degraded stream system, and provide academic research findings to help state water managers and the stream restoration community achieve multiple benefits.

Past Fellows 2019- 2020

Yoichiro Kanno  |  Assistant Professor, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Assessing gene flow of invasive brook trout to restore a meta-population of threatened greenback cutthroat trout in the upper Poudre River basin

Dr. Kanno will provide scientific support for a significant greenback cutthroat trout restoration in the upper Cache la Poudre basin. Spatial population structure and movement of this species in the upper basin are poorly understood, and this research will quantify trout movement, identify habitat features that impact gene flow, and determine whether altered flows in the river’s mainstem may hamper fish movement or isolate tributary populations.

Michael Ronayne  |  Associate Professor, Department of Geosciences

Numerical modeling of evolving recharge-discharge sources in a multi-aquifer system

Dr. Ronayne will study the hydrogeologic processes that control time-varying recharge within complex multi-aquifer systems. This research will examine how geologic heterogeneity impacts the alluvial-bedrock groundwater exchange, the conditions that give rise to unsaturated zones between the alluvium and bedrock, and the causes of aquifer “disconnect.”

Past Fellows 2018-2019

Melinda Laituri  |  Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability

Examining Extreme Cities: Seeking Solutions for Water Management in the 21st Century

According to the UN World Water Development Report (2018), by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of freshwater and cities are growing by 60 million people each year.

Within this context, Dr. Laitui and colleagues examine extreme cities — urban environments on the bleeding edge of climate change, socio-economic inequality, and with limited access to basic resources. Using the hydro-social cycle, we study an extreme city, Tijuana, Mexico, located on the US-Mexico border. The hydro-social cycle is a framework to examine water from a holistic perspective. It is diagramed to assess the existing water resource availability, the current water policy for water management, and the city context for demand and need.

Extreme cities are characterized by stark inequality in residents’ access to resources, as well as spatial differentiation by race, class, gender, and exposure to environmental harms. Extreme cities result from rapid population growth coupled with unplanned urban development and inadequate public infrastructure to serve marginal communities.

Chris Myrick  |  Professor, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Addressing Non-Salmonid Fish Passage in Semi-Arid Regions

Rivers worldwide provide important habitat for a wide variety of fish ranging in size from less than an ounce, to well over 100 pounds. A common thread between these and most other riverine fishes is that they rely on the ability to move freely between the habitats they need for spawning, feeding, or avoiding harsh environmental conditions such as droughts or floods.

The rivers that flow through semi-arid regions serve another purpose – they provide water for agricultural and urban needs, for power generation, and, in some cases, for recreation. In order to manage the rivers for these purposes and to minimize loss of life and property during flood events, resource managers often rely upon the presence of instream structures such as dams or diversions. Unfortunately, these can serve as barriers to the migration of fishes and other aquatic organisms.

The ecological connectivity of rivers can be restored to some degree by well-designed fish passage structures. This project was designed to allow Dr. Myrick, a Colorado fish passage researcher, to interact and work with fish passage researchers from other semi-arid regions who specialize in the passage of non-salmonid fishes, to explore possible similarities between fish passage needs and approaches in Australia’s Murray-Darling River system and those of Colorado’s Eastern Plains.

Learn more about the impactful research our grantees have accomplished in these issues of Colorado Water.

Colorado Water December 2020
2019-2020 Research Projects
2018 Research Projects
2017 Research Projects
2016 Research Projects

Fellows Archive

Jesse Burkhardt  |  Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

From Information to Prices: What Drives Residential and Commercial Water Demand?

Dr. Burkhardt and graduate student Matthew Flyr evaluated the determinants of commercial water demand in Fort Collins, Colorado. They present evidence that firms are more responsive to one period lagged average price than marginal price. We also find notable differences in price responsiveness across different categories of businesses. The findings in this paper are particularly important as water utilities consider how to maintain revenue while coping with limited water supplies and increasing commercial demand.

Kelly Curl  |  Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Integrating Green Infrastructure within Land-Use and Water Planning

The integration of land-use planning and water planning is a critical need as our urban, exurban, and rural environments continue to be developed. The installation of green infrastructure within the planned communities can be a social, economic, and environmental benefit for our larger ecosystems and overall increased groundwater recharge. This research study focused on the benefits of Native Grass landscape installed in the Bucking Horse neighborhood of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Yoichiro Kanno  |  Assistant Professor, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Stream Fish Conservation in Extreme Habitats

Habitat degradation and loss is a primary cause for imperilment of freshwater biota, and thus inventorying and monitoring stream habitat is paramount to aquatic sustainability. Traditionally, stream habitat has been characterized using a tape measure and other devices on foot, which prohibits sufficient spatial coverage in an efficient manner. In this study, Dr. Kanno and colleagues tested the utility of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV: a.k.a. “drone”) in mapping two streams in Colorado. The technology allowed spatially continuous mapping of stream habitat, and features such as substrate and channel drying could be identified on photographs. The use of UAV can be a powerful tool for characterizing stream habitat beyond local pools and riffles without sacrificing resolution at such a local scale.