Environmental Science Weekly Seminar

Emily Bernhardt  (Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor Duke University)

I am an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist whose research is principally concerned with tracking the movement of elements through ecological systems. My research aims to document the extent to which the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems is being altered by land use change (urbanization, agriculture, mining) global change (rising CO2, rising sea levels) and chemical pollution. Ultimately this information is necessary to determine whether and how ecosystem change can be mitigated or prevented through active ecosystem management.

We are living in a very exciting time in freshwater science, in which the advent of new technologies and high computing capacity is changing the temporal and spatial scales at which we study ecosystems. Until very recently we had only a few published records of continuous ecosystem productivity and respiration for rivers. That is changing.

By the end of 2019, our StreamPULSE project will be hosting continuous annual metabolism records for more than 500 rivers. We expect that number to double by 2020. Over the same period, new remote sensing technologies and strategies are providing high-resolution data on river color from satellite imagery, and converting that to turbidity, chlorophyll a and dissolved organic matter concentrations and loads. This data revolution is allowing us to ask new questions and reexamine old ideas about rivers.

Answering these new frontier questions effectively will also require a new scientific culture that facilitates the rapid exchange of BigData through Open Science platforms. I will talk about several of the frontier questions I believe Freshwater Scientists are best poised to attack in the next decade and discuss the opportunities for our discipline to use this opportunity to simultaneously become more collaborative, less hierarchical and more diverse.

Sponsored by

Department of Environmental Sciences,

Environmental Resilience Institute