WIGF Program: 2019 Cohort

High Latitude Hydrology: Water in a Changing World

The 2019 WIGF program offers a novel interdisciplinary graduate training environment, focused on water through the lens of the Arctic. We aim to foster interdisciplinary research and outreach among researchers, practitioners, and students in geology, hydrology, microbiology, botany, ecosystem science, coastal hydrodynamics, and communications.

Students in the cohort are training in environmental civics, defined as the principles and practice of public engagement, including general audience communication skills, policy discourse, and civic leadership.

Research themes

Students in the biophysical sciences 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?

Our science communication student will choose a dissertation research project related to water and/or climate communications, and be a vital part of the Arctic team. (C. Barnett and F. Waddell in the College of Journalism and Communications).

Environmental Civics

As the Fellows pursue the science of high-latitude hydrology, they will also train in civic practices crucial to solving the problems of our world—yet too often missing from science PhD programs: communications, leadership, civic engagement and public service.

To complete the four-part Environmental Civics requirement, each student must:

1) Take one course in science/environmental communications for general audiences. UF’s College of Journalism and Communications plans a special class for the cohort in year two, taught by WIGF advisor Cynthia Barnett and Ann Christiano, director of UF’s Center for Public Interest Communications. Students should complete this or another communications course of their choosing by the end of year two.

2) Take one course in natural resources/sustainability leadership. UF offers some great choices, such as Communication and Leadership Skills for Development Practice with Professor Jon Dain, director of UF’s Natural Resource Leadership Institute; IFAS Professor Cecilia Suarez’s Global Leadership course; or the Bob Graham Center’s Environment & Sustainability Leadership course taught by Barnett. Students should complete the leadership course by the end of year three.

3) Complete one civic engagement or public service activity, such as taking a policy-maker or elected official out into the field, or serving Greenlandic communities or those here in Gainesville (we have many opportunities to engage with local schools, from East Gainesville’s after-school science clubs to programs for high schoolers taking Environmental Science courses). Students should complete their civic engagement/public service activity by the end of year three.

4) Complete a final Environmental Civics project, spinning off your own research, to help build your capacity for public engagement and thought leadership. This could include, for example, providing testimony at a public hearing or writing an op-ed or science-policy white paper. You might choose to take a more-innovative approach and create, for example, a TED-like talk or short documentary film that focuses on your area of research and present it at a public venue such as the Bob Graham Center or a local brewery. Students should complete their Environmental Civics project as part of their PhD portfolio.

Each student should work with their PhD advisor to choose the four Environmental Civics components best suited for their work. WIGF Environmental Civics advisors Barnett and Tom Frazer, the director of UF’s School of Natural Resources and Environment who is serving as Florida’s Chief Science Officer, are available to provide advice. We’ll also notify students of opportunities like UF’s annual Climate Communications Summit and occasional field trips, such as one we hope to plan with Dr. Frazer to engage with state lawmakers in Tallahassee. We have chosen a private Facebook group, 2019 WIGF High Latitude Hydrology: Water in a Changing World, as the virtual home for our Environmental Civics discussions. This is where we’ll share ideas, articles, best practices and opportunities on the UF campus and beyond. If you haven’t yet joined Facebook and the page, we ask that you do so no later than August 1st. Until then!

Integrative Activities

WIGF fellows will benefit from following activities:

– Biweekly cohort meetings: WIGF Faculty and Fellows will meet regularly to develop collaborative research projects and integrate them into interdisciplinary proposals, ensuring rich professional development opportunities.

– 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 scout communication and outreach opportunities. Potential sites include the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska, the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies, or the Isunnguata/Russell/Leverette glacier system in Greenland.

– Water Institute Distinguished Scholar Seminars: Fellows will have the opportunity to invite and host leading experts in high latitude systems and water/climate leadership to visit the University of Florida, give seminars, and discuss research interests and ideas for potential collaborations.

– Water Institute Symposium: Fellows will have the opportunity to develop special sessions on high-latitude systems and present their research findings at UF’s biennial Water Institute Symposia.


The 2019 WIGF cohort has received a $2.2 million award from the NSF Arctic System Science Program which will allow the cohort to support the research of WIGF students along with additional 4 graduate students and 4 undergrad students. The project “Significance of Ice-Loss to Landscapes in the Artic” will have its first deployment to Greenland in summer 2021.