Ecohydrology Lab

Matthew J. Cohen, Ph.D.

Introduction and Background

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in ecosystems ecology and watershed systems, with an emphasis on fluxes of water, carbon and nutrients within and between aquatic systems and their surroundings, and the role of biological processes in regulating those fluxes. My work is fundamentally rooted in a systems view. Most recently, my lab group has recently been interested in three primary questions. The first pertains to riverine nutrient processing. We are particularly interested in temporal dynamics of river metabolism and how that is coupled to N and P removal, both directly and indirectly. This question has spawned many others, ranging for the role of rooted submerged vegetation on river hydraulics, to the geomorphic controls on denitrification. Our study sites for these questions have principally been North Florida's spring fed rivers, but generalizing the techniques and inferences of that work increasingly demands a broader suite of study sites. Using the same suite of instruments, we are also investigating the use of multiple chemical tracers in water to discern the source of water in a continuous sense; that is, what does the chemistry of water flows in a river tell us about the provenance of that water? The second question has to do with bi-directional feedbacks in wetland ecosystems. Specifically, there are several projects focusing on mechanisms of landform adjustment (i.e., development of microtopographic relief). Because vertical position in the water column is enormously influential on productivity, seed germination, site hydraulics, and biodiversity, the autogenic processes that create that topography are of broad interest. We have been most focused on the ridge-slough mosaic of the Everglades, but have recently proposed to extend that work to karst landscapes (e.g., Big Cypress National Preserve), river floodplains and isolated wetlands. We are particularly interested in describing the mechanisms of microtopography formation. Since the role of microtopography in wetlands is hard to overstate, we are also interested in identifying metrics that allow us to determine when those mechanisms have been interupted to the detriment of hummock-hollow structure maintenance. The last focus is on the hydrology of wetlands, with an emphasis on inference of water budget elements (ET and groundwater exchange) based on fine-scale variation in water elevation. The potential benefits of this approach are real-time empirical estimates of wetland water budgets, from which the role of isolated wetlands in particular in regional hydrologic function can be more clearly discerned. In many ways, these questions interconnect, and I have sought a lab group where students are inclined to think outside their particular area to the broader ecological questions that we are collectively trying to explore.

My lab group works in an array study systems (North Florida's karst springs and rivers, patterned peatlands in the Everglades, patterned karst landforms in Big Cypress National Preserve, isolated wetlands throughout Florida, shallow lakes, and black water rivers), and seeks to ultimately provide both management relevant information and insights about the inner workings of ecological systems. Students often ask about where I fall along the continuum of basic and applied research. My answer is "yes"...it's not obvious to me how to parse that distinction because all science is, at it's core, about theory and mechanism, but it's also motivated by what we don't know, and is therefore intrinsically applied. That said, we work very hard to ensure that what we do addresses socially relevant questions, and to communicate what we find to people that might use that information in a way that improves conditions.

Background

Assistant Professor (since 2006) - SFRC, University of Florida

Post-Doctoral Research - University of Florida (2003-2006): Soil and Water Science

Ph.D. - University of Florida (2003): Systems Ecology

M.E. - University of Florida (1999): Ecological Engineering

B.S. - Swarthmore College (1995): Environmental Engineering

Affliate Faculty Status in 1) Soil and Water Science, 2) School of Natural Resources and Environment

Current Chair of the Hydrologic Sciences Academic Cluster

Contact

Email: mjc@ufl.edu, Phone: 352.846.3490

Office Address: 328 Newins Ziegler Hall, Gainesville FL 32611-0410

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