News & Updates

2019 Archive

2019-12-02 - End-of-semester undergraduate research updates

Our final lab meeting of the semester featured updates about ongoing research led by undergraduates in the lab Alexis "AJ" Jackson, Jake Riney, Jonathon "Jack" Monroe, and Cameron Braswell. Topics ranged from wetland inundation and greenhouse gas emissions; generating in-stream stage-discharge relationships; modeling stream metabolism at confluences; assessing the magnitude and variability of microbial carbon metabolism in intermittent stream reaches; building solar stations for sensor deployments; and analyzing dissolved oxygen demand in confluence mixing zones. All four seniors are continuing their research with us in Spring 2020 . Congratulations on making great progress and identifying exciting next steps for your projects!

Fall 2019 Lab Group (left to right): Jake Riney, Stephen Plont, Natalie Murphy, Alexis "AJ" Jackson, Cameron Braswell, Erin Hotchkiss, Kristen Bretz, & Jonathon "Jack" Monroe. Not pictured (but taking our photo!): honorary lab member and emeritus professor, Jack Webster.

2019-11-16 - Ecosystem Energetics Working Group

Last week Erin Hotchkiss attended a working group meeting supported by the NSF-Funded “Stream Resiliency Research Coordination Network" in Gainesville, FL. In addition to spending time on the UF campus synthesizing food web data and models, the group also visited a few local freshwater springs. Erin enjoyed digging back in to secondary production and food web models, and is excited for future collaborations in this area.

November 2019 working group (left to right): Eric Scholl (Montana State), Wyatt Cross (Montana State), Todd Royer (Indiana University), Jay Jones (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Adrianne Smits (University of California Davis), Ben Abbott (Brigham Young University), Erin Hotchkiss (Virginia Tech), Allison Veach (University of Texas San Antonio), Lillian McGill (University of Washington), Matt Troia (University of Texas San Antonio), Parsa Saffarinia (University of California Riverside), & Kurt Anderson (University of California Riverside).

2019-10-29 - Monroe receives Undergraduate Research Excellence Award

Undergraduate researcher, Jonathon "Jack" Monroe, recently received a 2019-2020 Robert Jones Undergraduate Research Excellence Award from Virginia Tech's Department of Biological Sciences! Jack's proposed research, "Microbial Metabolic Fingerprints of Tributary Streams with Climate Change Implications" will build on his past microbial carbon metabolism research in intermittent streams and seeks to answer: (1) How do groundwater microbial communities differ from sediment and surface water microbial communities? (2) How does subsurface microbial carbon metabolism respond to surface drying and wetting events? Congratulations, Jack! We're excited to expand this area of research with you!

Jack Monroe with mentor Kristen Bretz

2019-10-25 - Ecosystem mosaics and broad-scale biogeochemistry

Erin Hotchkiss co-organized a working group meeting with Chris Solomon and Stuart Jones on "Ecosystem mosaics and broad-scale biogeochemistry" at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY (21-25 Oct 2019). Funding from the Cary Institute allowed us to bring together ecologists, biogeochemists, hydrologists, and catchment scientists to discuss knowledge gaps and research opportunities in linking terrestrial-aquatic and aquatic-aquatic ecosystem processes and biogeochemical fluxes at the landscape scale. We are excited to move these ideas forward. Thanks to everyone for a fun week of thinking big!

October 2019 working group (left to right): Bella Oleksy (CaryIES), Steve Sadro (UCDavis), Erin Hotchkiss (Virginia Tech), Steve Sebestyen (USFS), John Gardner (UNC), Jay Zarnetske (MSU), Chris Solomon (CaryIES), Hilary Dugan (UWMadison), Stuart Jones (Notre Dame), & Lauren Koenig (UConn).

2019-10-14 - Hotchkiss gives invited research seminar at Colorado State

Erin gave an invited research talk at Colorado State University last week as part of the National Resource Ecology Laboratory's "Soup & Science" seminar series. I spoke about recent and ongoing research "Beyond ecosystem boundaries: Ecological consequences of meta-ecosystem connections". It was great to be back in Colorado again (even with the bonus snow excitement on arrival day); meet new scientists with shared interests in ecology, water, and microbial processes; discuss science with students, faculty, and staff; visit with old "science friends"; and sample beer from two new (to me) Fort Collins breweries. Thanks to everyone who shared their time with me - it was a great visit! Lots of exciting science happening at CSU.

2019-10-09 - Hotchkiss co-PI on project to expand monitoring of mining-impacted streams

Erin is co-PI on a recent collaborative proposal funded by the Powell River Project to expand long-term monitoring of mining-impacted streams: “Assessing flow-driven effects on local and downstream water quality in central Appalachian headwater streams influenced by surface coal mining" (S.H. Schoenholtz*, D.L. McLaughlin, S.A. Entrekin, & E.R. Hotchkiss; *Submitted in collaboration with T. Cianciolo).

Our group of collaborators also received seed funding from Virginia Tech's 2019 Integrative Science and Solutions for Freshwater Systems Interdisciplinary Seed Grant earlier this year: "Using benthic and emergent insect biomass as a metric of stream impairment across a salinity gradient in central Appalachian headwater streams” (S. Entrekin, E.R. Hotchkiss, D. McLaughlin, C.E. Zipper, A.J. Timpano, & T. Cianciolo).

We look forward to learning more about water quality dynamics and invertebrate production in mining-impacted streams!

2019-09-10 - Bretz is the 2019 William R. Walker Graduate Research Fellow

PhD student Kristen Bretz was awarded the 2019 William R. Walker Graduate Research Fellowship from the Virginia Water Resources Research Center!

The fellowship supports one graduate student each year whose research is in a different field from their undergraduate degree and/or who has returned to gradate school after time in the workforce. Kristen worked for the USDA for several years between completing her MSc and starting her PhD studies here at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation research is quantifying how changing connectivity in stream networks alters carbon fluxes and cycling.

Congratulations, Kristen!

2019-08-23 - Hotchkiss lead PI on new Macrosystems Biology grant from the National Science Foundation

Erin Hotchkiss is lead PI on a new Macrosystems Biology grant from the National Science Foundation: "Linking land-to-water transport and stream carbon cycling to inform macrosystem carbon balance". The project will start in 2020 and is a collaboration with David Butman (University of Washington), Wil Wollheim (University of New Hampshire), Jay Jones (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Kaelin Cawley & Keli Goodman (National Ecological Observatory Network).

Project summary: The movement of carbon (C) across land-water boundaries is a critical factor for metabolism in freshwater ecosystems and the net C balance of watersheds. Because streams are a primary interface between terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, they are ideal test beds to advance understanding of land-water C transfers and meta-ecosystem ecology (i.e., the study of multiple ecosystems linked by energy and material transfers). Our research seeks to answer: (1) What is the magnitude and variability of land-to-water C transfers and stream C emissions? (2) How does meta-ecosystem C cycling vary within and among paired terrestrial-aquatic National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) research sites across the United States? (3) What controls C form, cycling, and fate in meta-ecosystems? Our research will advance a predictive understanding of the daily, seasonal, and annual processes controlling watershed C cycling through measurements and models that cross land-water boundaries and approaches that integrate biology, geology, and chemistry across space and time.

Updated 2019-11-27: VT News article about our project:

View from the air of boreal forest, meadow, and stream

2019-08-18 - Photos from the field: Summer #2 of tracing carbon fate in streams in Montana!

Erin Hotchkiss & Stephen Plont recently joined collaborators Michelle Baker (Utah State) and Bob Hall (University of Montana) for two weeks of dissolved organic carbon uptake and stable isotope tracer experiments in Montana. We targeted three different sites for our work this summer: side channel of the Middle Fork Flathead River, Nyack subsurface flowpath, & an open-canopy stream in an agricultural valley. This project was funded by a small grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology. We have exciting results that we will be working through, writing up, and sharing at SFS this fall/winter/spring!

Photos of fieldwork and lab work in Montana

2019-08-10 - Hotchkiss co-PI on new Improving Undergraduate STEM Education grant from the National Science Foundation

"Collaborative Research: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Prepare Undergraduates for Data Science Using Real-World Data from High Frequency Monitoring Systems" was recently approved for funding through the National Science Foundation's Improving Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education program (NSF IUSE). The proposal was led by PI Vinod Lohani (Department of Engineering Education) with Virginia Tech co-PIs Randel Dymond (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Erin Hotchkiss (Department of Biological Sciences), and Kang Xia (Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences).

Project Summary: This collaborative project aims to improve undergraduate understanding of data science by incorporating data science concepts and skill development in undergraduate courses in biology, computer science, engineering, and environmental science. Co-PI Hotchkiss will integrate data science activities into her Ecology classes (BIOL 2804). Through a collaboration between Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, we will develop, implement, and assess new learning modules based on high frequency, real-time data from water and traffic monitoring systems.

2019-08-02 - Jackson, Monroe, Becker, & REEUs present their summer research

Summer researchers in the lab Alexis "AJ" Jackson (REU), Jonathon "Jack" Monroe (research fellow), Shawn Becker (RET), and a group of REEUs co-mentored by Erin (Colin Baciocco, Isabelle Largen, Kestrel Owens) presented results from their research at the 2019 Virginia Tech Summer Research Symposium! I'm excited to continue these collaborations through ongoing research with AJ and Jack, working with Shawn on ways to bring freshwater science into his high school classroom, and collaborating on publications with some of the REEUs.

  • Jackson, Bretz, & Hotchkiss. 2019. Wetlands in a warming world: The importance of wetlands in headwater carbon cycling.

  • Monroe, Bretz, & Hotchkiss. 2019. Microbial Metabolic Fingerprints of Tributary Streams.

  • Becker & Hotchkiss. 2019. Dissolved oxygen levels as a factor in the health of freshwater ecosystems.

  • Baciocco, Largen, & Owens. 2019. Identifying spatiotemporal variation in water chemistry and water resource perceptions in Stroubles Creek headwaters.

AJ presenting her poster
Alexis "AJ" Jackson
Jack presenting his poster
Jonathon "Jack" Monroe (& mentor Kristen Bretz)
Shawn presenting his poster
Shawn Becker
Colin, Kestrel, and Isabelle presenting their poster
Colin Baciocco, Kestrel Owens, & Isabelle Largen

2019-07-31 - Listening to air-water gas exchange in running waters

What is "the sound of K"? Marcus Klaus, lead author on our recent L&O Methods paper, also put together a video abstract to share our work! Only a few mosquitoes that day....

2019-07-29 - #DelmarvaDisco project kickoff!

We recently had a kickoff meeting for our new NSF-funded project linking hydrology and biogeochemistry in wetland-dominated landscapes! We met to learn about past work in this area by the Palmer Lab group, visit potential field sites, and plan next steps. This is going to be a fun ecohydrology-biogeochemistry collaboration tackling a really interesting area of research. And...we are hiring! Check out this link for more information about the research assistant and 5 graduate assistant positions with this project:

Photo of PIs and project personnel for new NSF wetland connectivity project
Left to Right: Dr. Michael Williams (University of Maryland, Senior Personnel), Dr. Durelle Scott (Virginia Tech, co-PI), Dr. Nate Jones (University of Alabama, PI), Dr. Erin Hotchkiss (Virginia Tech, co-PI), Dr. Margaret Palmer (University of Maryland, co-PI), & Dr. Daniel McLaughlin (Virginia Tech, PI)
Delmarva wetland
Frog in tree bark gap
Delmarva wetland
Reviewing site maps at Delmarva wetland

2019-07-03 - Hotchkiss co-PI on a new project funded by the National Science Foundation

We are excited to announce a new collaborative research project between Virginia Tech (Daniel McLaughlin, Erin Hotchkiss, & Durelle Scott), University of Alabama (Nate Jones), and University of Maryland (Margaret Palmer) funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology (NSF DEB)! The title of our project is: "Collaborative Research: Hydrologic Connectivity and Water Storage as Drivers of Carbon Export and Emissions from Wetland-Dominated Catchments". We will measure and model water and carbon cycling in wetland-rich landscapes that vary in hydrologic connectivity and water storage.

Erin is looking for a new graduate student to join our lab and collaborate on this project.

Graphical abstract of wetland connectivity proposal

Updated 2019-11-23: VT News article about our project:

2019-06-19 - Hotchkiss co-author on a new article in L&O Methods

What is the sound of K?

My co-authors and I tackled the ever-challenging problem of estimating air-water gas exchange rates (K) in streams and rivers by quantifying the changing soundscape with increasing water turbulence and bubbles in the laboratory and field. We identified sound spectral properties that were strong predictors of K and highlight opportunities to apply this approach more broadly to improve our spatiotemporal understanding of K in running waters. Thanks to Marcus Klaus for his vision and leadership on this project.

Klaus, M., E. Geibrink, E.R. Hotchkiss, & J. Karlsson. 2019. Listening to air-water gas exchange in running waters. Limnology & Oceanography: Methods. doi: 10.1002/lom3.10321

Press Releases:

Abstract of Klaus et al. L&O Methods paper
Figure from Klaus et al. L&O Methods
Figure from Klaus et al. L&O Methods
Figure from Klaus et al. L&O Methods

2019-06-10 - Plont co-author on a new article in Nature Geoscience

Figure from Abbott et al. Nat Geosci

Figure 3a from Abbott et al. 2019. Nature Geoscience.

2019-05-31 - Hotchkiss Lab at #2019SFS

Members of the Hotchkiss Lab shared their research and connected with new/old collaborators at the annual Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah earlier this month. Highlights include:

  • Stephen Plont (PhD student) gave a talk: Plont, S., C. Miller, & E.R. Hotchkiss. 2019. Enhanced carbon metabolism downstream of a stream confluence mixing zone.

  • Melissa Castillo (undergraduate researcher & summer 2018 MAOP fellow) gave a poster: Castillo, M., S. Plont, & E.R. Hotchkiss. 2019. Source-specific dissolved organic carbon uptake by stream microbes.

  • Sumaiya Rahman (undergraduate researcher, summer 2018 REU fellow, & 2019 Virginia Tech graduate) gave a poster: Rahman, S. & E.R. Hotchkiss. 2019. From hillslopes to surface waters: Patterns in CO2 and CH4 fluxes from intermittent and perennial waterways.

  • Erin Hotchkiss gave an invited talk in a special session on "Heterotrophic Regimes": Hotchkiss, E.R., S. Plont, B. O’Donnell, M. Gallagher, & K. Bretz. 2019. Integrating diel patterns in dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and methane for an improved understanding of respiration regimes in streams.

  • Stephen served as a graduate mentor for Instars, a mentoring program for undergraduate students from under-represented groups interested in freshwater science.

  • Stephen accepted his 2019 SFS Endowment Award. He also received a travel award from Turner Designs - he presented research that would not have been possible without their Cyclops fDOM sensor!

  • Melissa accepted her 2019 SFS undergraduate travel award.

Stephen traveled with other students to Bryce Canyon National Park after the conference. Erin took a few bonus days in southern Utah to hike in Kodachrome Basin State Park, Bryce National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Capitol Reef National Park. Utah is beautiful!

Photos of Hotchkiss Lab members at SFS in SLC and hiking in Utah after the conference

2019-05-04 - Brynn O'Donnell is a Master of Science!

Yes, literally! Brynn successfully defended her Master's thesis on Friday - The Flow Regime of Function: Influence of Flow Changes on Biogeochemical Processes in Streams. Brynn gave a great defense seminar and her thesis is poised to make significant contributions to ecology. We are sorry to see Brynn go, but look forward to great things from her in the future.

Updated 2019-05-31: Brynn recently accepted a position as Project Manager for FishWise's Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability (SALT) initiative. Congrats, Brynn!

Brynn presenting her thesis work
Brynn O'Donnell's MSc defense seminar. May 2019.
Brynn celebrating passing her defense with Stream Team and Hotchkiss Lab students
Stream Team students (Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech) celebrating with Brynn after her defense! (photo from Nicole Ward)

2019-04-19 - Miller, Monroe, & Gallagher present their undergraduate research

Undergraduates in the lab Caitlin Miller, Jack Monroe, and Morgan Gallagher presented results from their research at the 2019 Dennis Dean Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Conference at Virginia Tech! We've been so lucky to have an amazing group of students working with us this year. Caitlin and Morgan graduate this spring. Jack will continue his research with us this summer and next year. Thanks to PhD students Stephen Plont and Kristen Bretz for being amazing mentors. Congratulations, all!

  • Miller, Plont, & Hotchkiss. 2019. Dissolved organic carbon uptake by microbes in a stream confluence.

  • Monroe, Bretz, & Hotchkiss. 2019. The effects of hydrologic variation on microbial carbon substrate metabolism.

  • Gallagher & Hotchkiss. 2019. Towards an understanding of dissolved methane dynamics in oxic streams.

Caitlin presenting her research poster
Caitlin Miller
Jack presenting his research poster
Jack Monroe
Morgan presenting her research poster
Morgan Gallagher

2019-04-09 - Stephen Plont & Morgan Gallagher are 2019 NSF GRFP awardees!

PhD student Stephen Plont and Bachelor's student Morgan Gallagher were both offered 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) awards!

  • Plont, Stephen. "Moving Beyond the Stream Reach: Assessing the Role of Confluences as Control Points of Ecosystem Function and Water Quality in Freshwater Networks."

  • Gallagher, Morgan. "Flow, function and flux: a bottom-up approach to reveal consequences of river intermittency for microbial greenhouse gas production."

Congratulations, Morgan and Stephen!! Here's to many more confluence experiments & greenhouse gas sampling campaigns (& fun science)!

Stephen Plont and Morgan Gallagher: Cheers!

2019-03-29 - Stephen Plont receives Society for Freshwater Science Endowment Award

PhD student Stephen Plont was awarded an endowment grant from the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) for his research proposal: "Stream Confluences as Biogeochemical Control Points in Freshwater Networks”. Stephen will be honored at the SFS meeting this May and receive $1000 to support his dissertation research. Congrats, Stephen!

Cartoon of a scientist pondering stream confluences
Confluence cartoon by Stephen Plont

2019-03-18 - Hotchkiss gives invited research seminar at the Cary Institute

Erin gave an invited research seminar at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY: "Subsidy or disturbance? Biogeochemical consequences of variable stream flow". The last time Erin visited Cary was as a graduate student in 2007(!) for the Fundamentals of Ecosystem Ecology (FEE) course - it was great to return and meet with the many fantastic ecologists on campus + brainstorm about new research ideas!

Title slide of Erin's seminar presentation that includes a photo of flooding Stroubles Creek

2019-03-09 - Morgan Gallagher receives a Fulbright Scholarship!

Morgan Gallagher, an undergraduate researcher with the Hotchkiss Lab, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research for one year in France after she graduates this spring! Morgan’s proposed research, “Consequences of River Intermittency for Microbial Greenhouse Gas Production”, will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Gilles Pinay and Dr. Thibault Datry (Institut national de recherche en sciences et technologies pour l’environnement et l’agriculture, IRSTEA) and Dr. Erin Hotchkiss (Virginia Tech). Congratulations, Morgan, on this incredible achievement!

Photo of Morgan celebrating her awesomeness

2019-02-18 - Hotchkiss co-author on article in Invasive Plant Science and Management

A perspectives article that emerged from a 2-day workshop on "Biological Invasions: Confronting a Crisis" in 2018 is now online: Barney, J.N., T. Schenk, D.C. Haak, S. Salom, B. Brown, & E.R. Hotchkiss. 2019. Building Partnerships and Bridging Science and Policy to Address the Biological Invasions Crisis. Invasive Plant Science and Management doi: 10.1017/inp.2018.33.

Kristen Rose, Communications Director at Virginia Tech's Fralin Life Science Institute, did a great job putting together a news story to announce our collaborative publication.

Abstract of Barney et al.

2019-02-09 - Biological Sciences Research Day

Graduate students in the lab presented their results and research ideas at the 2019 Biological Sciences Research Day at Virginia Tech. The (now 16 year) tradition of a day celebrating graduate research in our department is a great opportunity to learn about the breadth of topics that motivate research in labs from Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Microbiology and Immunology; and Molecular, Cellular, Developmental, and Computational Biology! Presentations from the Hotchkiss Lab were:

  • O'Donnell, B. Biogeochemical consequences of stream flow changes: coupling concentration-and metabolism-discharge relationships.

  • Plont, S. Linking organic carbon and nitrogen spiraling in streams across land uses and biomes.

  • Bretz, K. Expanding and contracting headwater stream networks: biogeochemical consequences and carbon fate. Poster.

2019-02-05 - Brynn O'Donnell publishes in Popular Science

Master's student Brynn O'Donnell recently published a fantastic piece on "Ghost Streams" in Popular Science!

O'Donnell, B. (2019) Ghost streams' sound supernatural, but their impact on your health is very real. Popular Science.

Screenshot of Brynn's twitter announcement of her new article in Popular Science