At the interface of two joining streams comes a sudden connection of two distinct systems, each formed as a product of the upstream landscape and ecosystem functioning within. The characteristics of the contributing streams thus greatly influences the physical habitat and the availability of resources for aquatic ecosystems downstream. A vast amount of research has been dedicated to understanding how the contributing streams affect the physical processes at river confluences, however, little is known about the resulting ecological responses.
My graduate studies have been directed towards understanding tributary exports and how they influence the structuring of invertebrate communities in a receiving channel. I hope that this research will allow us to gain a better understanding of the value in maintaining ecological integrity of upstream landscapes, not only for preserving local aquatic ecosystem functioning, but to uphold the health of our river systems on a watershed scale.
In addition to my graduate studies, I’m also involved in a project with a group at the University of Lethbridge looking at terrestrial-aquatic linkages in large rivers. We are primarily interested in physical mechanisms behind the transfer, retention, and breakdown of leaf litter inputs in the Oldman River. Our current work in this project highlights the potential value of riparian cottonwood forests to the adjacent aquatic ecosystems. This further emphasizes the importance of incorporating riparian health in the flow regulation practices of upstream impoundments.
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