In this month’s Midday Science Cafe, we’ll speak to scientists who ask one of the most pressing questions in climate change: How does climate change alter landscapes and what are the downstream effects of these changes? First, we’ll hear from Dr. Erica Siirila-Woodburn, a Research Scientist at Berkeley Lab who will discuss how mountains -- which are known as nature’s water towers because they store, capture, and release water for downstream use -- are especially sensitive to climate change. Dr. Kerri Johnson, a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Berkeley, will then discuss how climate change is projected to make hillslope soils more vulnerable to erosion, a consequence that has far-reaching impacts on ecosystem health, downstream water resources, and global carbon distribution. We’ll also hear how both scientists use field sites to help them understand current conditions and model future scenarios. Dr. Siirila-Woodburn uses measurements from and models of a watershed located in the Upper Colorado River Basin, one of the most comprehensive watershed research projects in the world. And Dr. Johnson uses a well-controlled natural experiment on Santa Cruz Island, CA, to explore the influence of microclimate on patterns of hillslope soil erosion.
Dr. Erica Siirila-Woodburn is a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with a focus on computational hydrology. She and her group study the movement and partitioning of water in natural and managed environments ranging from hillslope to watershed scales, with recent topics including climate change and extremes, groundwater storage dynamics, and quantitative risk assessment. Erica received her Ph.D. in hydrology from the Colorado School of Mines in 2013 and was a postdoc at the Polytechnic University of Barcelona before joining Berkeley Lab in 2015.
Dr. Kerri Johnson holds a PhD in geology with a specialization in geomorphology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In her postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley, she has been working with the UC Natural Reserve System and the Moore Foundation funded California Heartbeat Initiative – Freshwater. Her work is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which landscape systems respond to climate and land-use change in hopes of helping improve land management in the face of a changing climate. She is interested in the interactions between bedrock weathering, soils, plants, hillslope water storage and runoff generation and river processes. Her love of gardening helped her notice that plants were actually controlling all the processes she was trying to study from a geologic perspective. Her love of sailing & the CA Channel Islands led her to the perfect place to study her fascination with landscape resilience to disturbance & gully erosion. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, with her family.
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