High Latitude Hydrology: Water in a Changing World

The University of Florida Water Institute is seeking 6 doctoral-degree students interested in joining an interdisciplinary team that will work collaboratively to understand the consequences of changing hydrology, ecology, and geochemistry with ice retreat. Fellowships will provide an annual stipend, tuition waiver and health insurance for 4 years starting fall term 2019.

The program: The 2019 Water Institute Graduate Fellows (WIGF) program offers a novel interdisciplinary graduate training environment. The program aims to answer scientific questions related to hydrology, ecology, geochemistry, and coastal dynamics in high latitudes, the location of the greatest environmental and hydrologic changes on the Earth. In concert with pure research efforts, students will be trained in environmental civics, defined as the principles and practice of public engagement, including general audience communication skills, policy discourse, and civic leadership. Rarely addressed in academia, environmental civics is vital to reverse skepticism of scientific institutions and maximize the relevance and impact of our research. The program goal is to foster interdisciplinary research investigations and outreach among researchers, practitioners, and students in geology, hydrology, microbiology, botany, ecosystem science, coastal hydrodynamics, and communications.

Research themes: The 2019 WIGF cohort will study high latitude processes linked to water science using Greenland as a focal point. This focus will provide a venue to further interdisciplinary research and allow students to address system-level questions within a single region. Examples of potential research topics (and their faculty leaders) include:

  1. Ice sheet microbial ecology and hydrology (B. Christner, E. Screaton). The microbial communities and their effects on supraglacial water (firn aquifer) leads to questions including: What microbial communities colonize the near-surface of the ice sheet? How do they affect in situ carbon and nutrients and their downstream fluxes? What are the feedbacks between melting and the development of microbial communities?
  2. Pro- and non-glacial stream solute fluxes (J. Martin, E. Martin). The shift in relative extents of non-glacial versus proglacial watersheds leads to research questions including: What controls differences in solute and gas fluxes of extant subglacial, proglacial and non-glacial watersheds? How did and how will those fluxes change with ice sheet retreat? What is the impact on fluxes as ecosystems develop and evolve in expanding non-glacial watersheds?
  3. Proglacial streams (E. Screaton, J. Martin). The limited understanding of control on and effects of hyporheic exchange in sandurs leads to questions including: What mechanisms and magnitudes of hyporheic exchange occur in sandurs? How does exchange evolve through the melt season and in a warming world? How does exchange impact river solute compositions and sediment temperatures and thus solute fluxes and permafrost melting?
  4. Ecological development of non-glacial landscapes (S. McDaniel, M. Cohen, J. Martin). Warming should alter high latitude plant community succession and its effects on watershed solutes, leading to questions including: How do bryophyte communities colonize newly exposed landscapes? Does bryophyte colonization facilitate development by vascular plants? How do different communities influence the movement of water through the landscape and chemical weathering?
  5. Metabolic controls on solute fluxes (M. Cohen, J. Jawitz). Stream biological and chemical reactions and water inputs, storage and travel times should evolve in the warming arctic, leading to questions including: How do timing and magnitudes of water inputs to watersheds vary with ecosystem development? How will warming alter ecosystem metabolism? What are the impacts of hyporheic habitats on the stream solute fluxes in non-glacial streams?
  6. Transition to coastal waters (A. Valle-Levinson, J. Jaeger). Linkages of terrestrial and coastal waters as heat, salt, nutrients and suspended material discharge from pro- and non-glacial streams lead to research questions including: What feedbacks exist between coastal and fjord circulation and glacier melting rates? Does solute delivery to the coasts lead to eutrophication and dissolved oxygen consumption? How has the sediment supply varied with glacier retreat?
  7. Transfer to the ocean (E. Martin, J. Jaeger). Glacial sediments and solutes pass through the glacial foreland and fjords prior to deep sea deposition, leading to questions including: How well do marine records track terrestrial processes? What processes are captured by marine records? Can marine records be applied to learn about past ice sheet dynamics?
Environmental civics: Communications skills and civic engagement and outreach will be a key element of each studentís program and figure prominently in the experience. Each student will:

  1. Take two courses among several in these areas offered at UF, one in science/environmental communication for general audiences and another in leadership training, to develop core competencies in translating science to the general public, stakeholders and decision-makers;
  2. Complete a civic engagement activity such as service to Greenlandic communities, provide testimony at public hearings, take a policy maker to the field, or another activity of the studentsí design that will help build students' capacity for public engagement and thought leadership;
  3. Complete an environmental civics product as part of their portfolio that could include traditional or innovative approaches such as a science-policy white paper; an article for general readers; a TED talk; or a short documentary film on the studentís area of research.
Integrative activities: WIGF fellows will benefit from following activities:

  1. Biweekly cohort meetings: will provide the platform for WIGF Faculty and Fellows to develop collaborative research projects that will be integrated in interdisciplinary research proposals and will provide professional development opportunities.
  2. Field trip: Organized by the Fellows, this trip will introduce students to high latitude hydrology, make initial observations, collect samples to kick-start dissertation research and discuss the potential for communication and outreach. Potential sites for the trip include the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska, the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies, or the Isunnguata/Russell/Leverette glacier system in Greenland.
  3. Water Institute Distinguished Scholar Seminars: Fellows will have the opportunity to invite and host leading experts in high latitude systems to visit the University of Florida, give a seminar, and discuss research interests and ideas for potential future collaborations.
  4. Water Institute Symposium: Fellows will have the opportunity to develop special sessions on high latitude systems and present their research findings at biennial Water Institute Symposia.