MISSOULA – A University of Montana researcher recently was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to explore a solution for managing limited water resources in the southwestern United States.
Rebecca Manners, a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the UM Department of Geosciences and the Center for Riverine Science and Stream Renaturalization, will receive $375,000 toward her project as an NSF Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability Fellow.
“Getting one of these fellowships has provided me a good deal of flexibility and freedom to pursue a research agenda that I identified as interesting and important,” Manners said.
The SEES fellowship will take Manners back into the field over the next three years, primarily to the upper Colorado River Basin, where she plans to build a hydrologically driven model of riparian ecosystem dynamics that accounts for the interactions between physical processes and riparian vegetation.
Under the guidance of mentors Andrew Wilcox, a fluvial geomorphologist in UM’s Department of Geosciences, and David Merritt, a riparian ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Fort Collins, Colo., Manners will conduct research at the interface of ecology and geomorphology.
“It’s a larger collaboration, building on data sets that numerous researchers and I have collected over the years,” Manners said. “What we’re trying to do is to bring all of this information together in the best way possible to better manage these rivers.”
In light of the growing demand for increasingly limited water resources, Manners’ model will help define future flow regimes for regulated rivers that, in addition to meeting human needs, will promote native species, suppress non-native species and prevent channel degradation through vegetation encroachment.
Manners’ project, “An Integrative Model of Riparian Ecosystem Dynamics to Support Sustainable Management of Regulated Rivers,” will give her experience managing her own budget, teaching courses and interacting with numerous stakeholders on the project.
Ultimately, Manners hopes her work helps further the understanding of river processes, giving society a robust tool set to help better manage these systems.
To watch a video of Manners discussing her research, visit http://youtu.be/f6T2RembwrY.