Researchers & Research Topics

Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory

The following CRB-CZO researchers are available for the 2016 CZO REU/RET program:

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David Arscott, Ph.D. (Stroud Water Research Center)

Dr. Arscott’s research interests include aquatic primary production, distribution and diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates, ecohydrology, and the ecology of rivers and flood plains. Broad interests include riverine landscape ecology and dynamics, aquatic invertebrate and algal ecology, aquatic food web structure and dynamics, habitat conservation, and land-water interactions. Learn more about Dr. Arscott.

» Potential RET research: 

  1. Seeking a teacher with microbial experience to further develop and test various E. coli sampling methods for both research objectives and citizen science outlets in the White Clay Creek Watershed. RET intern will work collaboratively with Dr. Jinjun Kan, Dr. Dave Arscott, and Tara Muenz, Assistant Director of Education.
  2. Seeking a teacher to develop curriculum and website content for water quality sensor monitoring networks. Specific goals for this project include: (a) enhancing public capabilities to use STEM skills to identify freshwater and environmental questions and develop appropriate scientific studies; (b) implement valuable, replicable, and robust curricula and tools that enable citizens and students/teachers to collect and share environmental monitoring information and to make informed decisions in support of environmental stewardship; and (c) introduce GREENING STEM technologies and outlets for engagement in STEM learning experiences through the use of open-source electronics solutions. RET intern will work collaboratively with Dr. Dave Arscott, Steve Hicks, Research Engineer, and Tara Muenz, Assistant Director of Education.

Anthony Aufdenkampe, Ph.D.

Anthony Aufdenkampe, Ph.D. (Stroud Water Research Center)

Dr. Aufdenkampe’s  research interests include quantification of the role of river systems in regional and global carbon cycles; the interactions between organic carbon and minerals that alter organic matter composition, transport, mineralization and burial; and, development of analytical approaches to quantifying the elemental, isotopic and biochemical composition of organic matter in aquatic and terrestrial systems.  Learn more about Dr. Aufdenkampe.

» Potential REU research
Two possible topics for REU research are:
  1. developing open-source hardware and/or software solutions to enhance the capabilities of our Do-It-Yourself approaches to environmental science and monitoring, as presented at http://envirodiy.org/. Interns will need previous experience with the Arduino electronics platform, computer software coding, engineering and/or environmental sensors management. The REU would partner with RET position #2 (see Dr. Arscott’s listing).
  2. surveying post-colonial sediment deposits in floodplains to quantify buried carbon stocks; compositional analysis of sediment source materials for modeling.

» Potential RET research: see position #2 in Dr. Arscott’s listing at top of page.


Melinda Daniels, Ph.D.Melinda Daniels, Ph.D. (Stroud Water Research Center)

Dr. Daniels’s research is concerned with fluvial geomorphology, environmental restoration, stream ecosystems ecology, water resources and environmental management.  Learn more about Dr. Daniels.

» Potential REU/RET research: geomorphic field mapping of headwater stream channels, including sediment grain sizes, sediment organic matter content, and large woody debris; field monitoring and/or modeling of stream temperatures as they relate to riparian landscape cover, aspect, topographic shading, and groundwater contributions; field and/or laboratory investigation of ecosystem engineering effects of aquatic invertebrates (net-spinning caddisfly, crayfish), particularly their control on sediment dynamics.


Shreeram_Inamdar_200_200_80auto_s_c1Shreeram Inamdar, Ph.D. (University of Delaware)

Dr. Inamdar’s research interests include the controls of hydrologic flowpaths and biogeochemical processes on solute transport and fate in watersheds. Research is conducted through watershed and laboratory studies along with conceptual modeling of observed data. Recent research has focused on studying the quality and dynamics of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in watersheds and the fate of hormones and antibiotics in agricultural ecosystems.  Learn more about Dr. Inamdar.

» Potential REU/RET research: Quantify spatial and temporal variability of greenhouse gas fluxes and characterize relevant microbial processes (e.g. methanogenensis, methanotrophy etc.)


Jinjun Kan, Ph.D.Jinjun Kan, Ph.D. (Stroud Water Research Center)

Dr. Kan’s research interests include environmental microbiology; molecular microbial ecology of aquatic ecosystems, particularly freshwater and estuaries, with a focus on population dynamics of microorganisms and their interactions with ambient environments including trophic interactions, nutrient cycling, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about Dr. Kan.

» Potential REU/RET research: Monitor the bacterial loading (i.e. total coliform, E. coli, and Enterococcus) at headwaters and provide a water quality survey for White Clay Creek Watershed.


Holly Michael, Ph.D.Holly Michael, Ph.D. (University of Delaware)

Dr. Michael’s primary research goal in the CZO is to integrate coastal processes into understanding carbon-mineral complexation. Her work includes field and modeling work at three sites: an upland stream, an estuary and a tidal river, to compare groundwater-surface water exchange processes affecting redox geochemistry and carbon complexation. Learn more about Dr. Michael.

» Potential REU/RET research: installation of mini-pore-water samplers, pressure transducers and/or sensors at one or more sites, and analysis of time-series data to determine effects of hydrologic processes on fluxes of water and chemicals.


Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory

The following SSHO researchers are available for the 2016 CZO REU/RET program:

Susan Brantley, Ph.D.

Susan Brantley, Ph.D.

Dr. Brantley’s research includes investigation of the impact of Mn deposition from industrial activities on ecosystem processes, identification of the effect of tree throw on regolith formation, and investigations of pore-water flow and chemistry. Learn more about Dr. Brantley.

» Potential REU/RET research: REU students working with Sue will complete field, laboratory, and modeling work to assess soils, vegetation, and waters in the SSHO.


Photo of Kenneth Davis, Ph.D.

Kenneth Davis, Ph.D.

Dr. Davis studies how ecosystems, the atmosphere and soils govern the exchanges of carbon and water between the earth’s surface and the atmosphere. He specializes in the applications of measurements to evaluate and improve numerical models of the earth’s carbon and water cycle, and his group maintains the long-term record of ecosystem-atmosphere flux measurements collected at the SSHCZO watersheds. Learn more about Dr. Davis.

» Potential REU/RET research: The multi-year data records at the CZO document how carbon and water fluxes have changed as a result of climate variability. Comparisons between sites show how different landscapes vary in their responses to environmental conditions. One research project would use the CZO data records to investigate how and why the carbon, water and energy cycles of central Pennsylvania forests have changed from year to year. A second topic would investigate the nature of atmospheric turbulence in the hilly terrain surrounding our study sites.


Roman DiBiase, Ph.D.

Dr. DiBiase’s research focuses on understanding the processes that erode bedrock and transport sediment along hillslopes and river channels. He is interested in how landscapes record and respond to changes in climate, tectonics, and land use. Learn more about Dr. DiBiase.

» Potential REU/RET research: This fieldwork-based REU will involve geologic and geomorphic mapping, characterization of colluvial soils and river sediment, and analysis of LiDAR topographic data.


David Eissenstat, Ph.D.

David Eissenstat, Ph.D.

Dr. Eissenstat’s areas of interest are in plant/water relations, hydrology and plant physiological ecology. His group is broadly interested in how coexisting trees partition water differently in a species-rich temperate forest. Learn more about Dr. Eissenstat.

» Potential REU/RET research: Work will focus on improving our understanding of belowground biotic factors affecting weathering in the Critical Zone. Research may include a study of variation root and mycorrhizal fungal properties in relation to lithology (sandstone, shale), tree species and soil depth. We also are interested in how trees use water in the Critical Zone. Are sources of water used by trees different from that flowing into streams?


Li Li, Ph.D.

Dr. Li’s group works at the interface of water resources, geochemistry, and environmental engineering. In particular, she is interested in understanding the coupling of flow, transport, and multi-component (bio)geochemical reactions in natural systems at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Her group uses both experimental and modeling tools. Learn more about Dr. Li at lili.ems.psu.edu.

» Potential REU/RET research: REU students working with Li will choose to use experimental and/ or modeling tools to understand physical and geochemical process coupling in the SSHO.


Tess Russo, Ph.D.

Dr. Russo’s research addresses hydrologic system responses to environmental change. She is interested in (1) developing methods to help quantify the relative impacts of human and natural drivers on hydrologic systems, (2) developing models of the system to project future conditions and test management strategies, and (3) using field observations and modeling to improve our understanding of fundamental physical processes. To address these goals, she uses field instrumentation and observations, numerical and statistical models, GIS, and laboratory analyses.

» Potential REU/RET research: An REU student will contribute to our understanding of streambed exchange processes by performing tracer injection tests. The student will conduct multiple tests and use the OTIS model to estimate streambed exchange parameters and characteristics, possibly in time as conditions change over the summer. They will also assist with stream and groundwater chemistry measurements, helping answer additional geochemical and hydrologic dynamics questions within the watershed.


Timothy White, Ph.D.

Dr. White’s research at the SSHO focuses on the shale bedrock underlying the observatory, dominated by shale but known to contain varying amounts of sandstone and limestone, some rich enough in iron that it was the primary iron ore in the United States in the 19th century. The shale formation has been folded and faulted during Appalachian mountain-building events. This structural complexity and bedrock heterogeneity likely influences processes in the SSHO ranging from pedogenesis to water infiltration into the deeper subsurface. Since bedrock exposure in the observatory is poor, it is necessary to make observations where possible (bottom of soil pits, nearby natural exposures) to understand the potential heterogeneity within the observatory. Learn more about Dr. White.

» Potential REU/RET research: This REU/RET will focus on the regional bedrock stratigraphy and the relationship to the SSHO watershed. The distribution of folds, faults and fractures within the various bedrock components will also be investigated. In addition, at the SSHO, south of the Last Glacial Maximum ice front, the ice-free landscape was altered through permafrost and seasonal freezing and thawing. These periglacial processes created a mantle of unconsolidated material that overlies unweathered bedrock in many places and provides the parent material for pedogenesis. A second focus of research will be to understand the distribution of this mantle of transported material, specifically on so-called solifluction deposits (lobes), and how these deposits relate to soil formation and soil and groundwater recharge and flow.