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Graduate student receives Kottlowski Award for joint NMT/Bureau project

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Stephanie piloting a drone south of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Courtesy of Stephanie Roussel

Socorro, NM
— May 15, 2020

New Mexico Tech (NMT) graduate student Stephanie Roussel received the New Mexico Geological Society’s (NMGS) 2020 Frank E. Kottlowski Research Award worth $2,500 for her proposal “Riparian evapotranspiration recovery post-fire: using diurnal groundwater fluctuations and remote sensing to quantify phreatophyte interactions in a disturbed landscape.”

This award will fund Stephanie’s masters research studying the eco-hydrological response of recovering bosque riparian vegetation along the Rio Grande river burned by the June 2017 Tiffany Fire. The Tiffany Fire burned 9,000+ acres of riparian vegetation between Fort Craig National Historic Site and the southern boundary of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

“The Tiffany Fire project is a complex, multidisciplinary study in ecohydrology and fire-recovery that incorporates place-based science with an abundance of data,” says Stephanie. “This project could help focus our restoration efforts in areas with the greatest chance of success while at the same time improving our ability to monitor vegetation recovery using the readily available tools of remote sensing.”

The project will document the recovery of riparian vegetation using continuous groundwater monitoring at wells installed by the Interstate Stream Commission along two transects, one along the southern border of Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge and one near the ghost town of San Marcial.

The study will also monitor vegetation recovery using repeat aerial imagery surveys collected by drone. The overlapping images will be processed at the Bureau of Geology to create orthomosaic and greenness maps. These maps will be correlated to lower resolution satellite images and used to estimate vegetation evapotranspiration rates, the rate at which plants release water to the atmosphere.

The project will support the important work done by land managers in New Mexico.

“In deserts where every drop of water matters, it’s important to understand how timing and quantity of water can sustain or limit the regeneration of a riparian ecosystem,” says Stephanie.

The Frank E. Kottlowski Research Award is given annually by the New Mexico Geological Society to a student enrolled in a New Mexico institution and whose proposed project is located in New Mexico.

This research will be conducted in cooperation with Armendaris Ranch—Ted Turner Reserves.