My research has followed an anabranching path through time. My dissertation research focused on sedimentary records of ancient floods along bedrock canyons in northern Australia. Working in these canyons, I became intrigued by their channel morphology and the processes that created and maintained this morphology, so for several years I worked primarily on bedrock canyons.
Many of these canyons occur in mountainous environments. Living in Colorado, the Front Range and Rocky Mountain National Park are the ‘backyard’ research sites, so my research focus shifted gradually toward mountain streams.
The mountain streams of Colorado include a fair amount of instream wood. At some point I realized that most of the existing research on instream wood had been done in the very different environment of the Pacific Northwest, so that led me to focus on wood dynamics in Colorado and in headwater neotropical streams of Panama and Costa Rica.
Wood dynamics in mountainous headwater streams are intimately connected to carbon cycling, stream metabolism, and river ecosystem productivity, and now several research projects focus on these aspects of mountain streams. In the course of mapping logjams in Rocky Mountain National Park, I kept coming across abandoned beaver dams, and began to wonder about the effects of these dams on carbon cycling and watershed-scale biogeochemistry. That’s a big component of the fun of research: you start on one path, but never know exactly where it will take you.