Ecohydrology Research Group University of South Florida - School of Geosciences

Graduate Students

Kirsten Bendik M.S. student, Geology

Kirsten Bendik

The importance of water resources became apparent to me while working with the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida as a GIS Specialist. While evaluating the impacts that storms have on the nation’s coastline, the direct influence of saltwater intrusion from storm surge coupled with retreating protective coastal features led me to pursue a master’s degree focusing on hydrology. I aim to investigate the implications that both anthropogenic influences and the changing climate have on water resources and availability as well as the communities affected by these changes. Currently, I am investigating the effect of land use change in Florida on nitrogen concentrations in springs, streams, rivers, and estuaries. Excess nitrogen in water can lead to adverse conditions such as algal blooms and changes in species composition.

Project Context »

Savannah FransbergenM.S. student, Env Sci & Policy

Savannah Fransbergen

My research focus is on improving our understanding of the spatial distribution of wetlands and their surface water connection within flow networks. I have conducted extensive fieldwork (often on a mountain bike) in northern Tampa Bay to field validate two hydrography datasets during the wet season to determine the presence or absence of predicted surface-water flows. Additionally, I am conducting a series of database and GIS analyses to assess the accuracy of two hydrological datasets regionally applicable: The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), and a regional dataset developed for water management. My end goal is to apply these datasets and network theory to landscape-level distribution patterns of wetlands that illustrates their connections to downstream waters.

My interest in streamflow networks was motivated by a summer internship with the Bureau of Reclamation in Arizona. During the internship I was involved in multiple projects that focused on water conservation practices, and the management and assessments of systems that experienced intermittent flow due to flash flooding. Even with a limited supply of water, aquatic and terrestrial systems flourished in areas that seemed barren. I’d like to take what I learn from my current research and study western water systems with the goal of creating more concrete, protective conservation policies.

Project Context »

  • NSF Nitrogen S-STEM Program Scholarship

Edgar Javier Guerrón Orejuela PhD student, Geology

Edgar Javier Guerron Orejuela

I am interested in learning how hydrological processes, including surface-water and ground-water interactions, influence the structure and function of fresh water and marine ecosystems, as well as how these ecosystems influence the life of people that live around them. Furthermore, I am interested in studying the potential implications of anthropogenic actions to hydrological processes. By having a better understanding of these systems, their processes, and the role they play for society, I hope to be able to provide valuable information and conservation strategies to law and policy makers so that well informed decisions can be made.

I have had the opportunity to study and work in many different ecosystems around the world, from the Ecuadorian Amazon to Alaskan Rivers and Lakes. My experience includes academic and applied research, natural resources management, endangered species conservation, water quality management, community engagement, GIS analysis, and environmental regulation. Currently, I am a NOAA Margaret A. Davidson Fellow at the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Homer, Alaska.

Project Context »

  • Suresh A.S., M.P. Carey, J.M. Morton, E. Guerron-Orejuela, R. Decino, M. Willette, J. Boersma, J. Jablonski, C. Anderson (2017) Rapid response for invasive waterweeds at the arctic invasion front: Assessment of collateral impacts from herbicide treatments, Biological Conservation Volume 212, Part A, 2017, Pages 300-309.

  • NOAA Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship - View Video

Chelsea Mackin M.S. student, Env Sci & Policy

Chelsea Mackin

My interests are at the intersection of ecology, ecohydrology, environmental policy, and science communication. My undergraduate thesis research at the University of Oregon focused on ecopsychology, specifically how natural spaces influence the psyche. After graduation I served in the Peace Corps in Panama for three years, extending my service to be the National Coordinator of a Seed Bank. In this position, I collaborated with host country agricultural and environmental agencies on environmental initiatives, and managed seminars on seed saving and organic agriculture throughout the country. Upon return to the states, I worked at the Environmental Protection Agency in human resources. My professional experiences motivated me to return to school for a better understanding of the mechanics behind environmental processes, and professional versatility within the environmental field.

Current Internships
  • Office of Sustainability; City of Portland, Maine
  • Climate + Community Project; McHarg Center, University of Pennsylvania

Amy Pritt PhD student, Geology

Amy Pritt

My research interests are at the intersection of the physical and biological environments, especially in aquatic ecosystems. If climate, geology, and land use-land cover are held relatively constant, then what are the remaining roles of spatial variability in relief and connectivity in creating spatial variability in physical and chemical hydrological structure and function in depressional wetland and waterbody complexes? And, further, what are the roles of spatial variability in hydrologic structure and function in creating spatial variability in ecological structure and function and meta-ecosystem stability in depressional wetlands and waterbody complexes? I’m currently studying this in wetland and waterbody complexes in the Bahamas, where the wetlands and waterbodies vary greatly in both relief (e.g., shallow depressions to deep blue holes) and connectivity (e.g., surface-water isolated to surface-water and/or groundwater connected to one another and the ocean).

Project Context »

  • USF Geosciences Tharp Research Fellowship

Leanne Stepchinski PhD student, Geology

Leanne Stepchinski

My research aims to increase understanding of our planet’s water resources, as well as the impacts of climatic changes and human development on these systems. Previously, my work has included utilizing carbonate paleontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy to characterize carbonate platforms in South China, and conducting assessments of groundwater and surface water systems in semi-arid to arid regions throughout Texas and in central Kenya. Currently, I investigate hydrologic connectivity within wetland complexes and the surrounding landscapes, especially within ephemerally to intermittently flowing headwater systems such as vernal pool wetlandscapes.

  • Lehrmann, DJ, Minzoni, M, Enos, P, Kelleher, C, Stepchinski, L, Li, X, Payne, JL and Yu, M (2020). Giant sector‐collapse structures (scalloped margins) of the Yangtze Platform and Great Bank of Guizhou, China: Implications for genesis of collapsed carbonate platform margin systems. Sedimentology 67: 3167-3198.https://doi.org/10.1111/sed.12740
  • Lehrmann, D. J., Stepchinski, L., Altiner, D., Orchard M., Montgomery, P., Enos P., Ellwood, B., Bowring, S, Ramezani J., Wang,. H., Wei, J., Yu, M., Griffiths, J., Minzoni, M., Schaal, E., Li, X., Meyer, K., and Payne, J. (2015). An integrated biostratigraphy (conodonts and foraminifers) and chronostratigraphy (paleomagnetic reversals, magnetic susceptibility, elemental chemistry, carbon isotopes and geochronology) for the Permian-Upper Triassic strata of Guandao section, Nanpanjiang Basin, south China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 108:117-135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2015.04.030
  • Stepchinski, L. (2015). Controls on Carbonate Factory Type (Abiotic, Microbial, Skeletal) on the Hongyan Margin of the Yangtze Platform, South China. Geosciences Student Honors Theses, 14. https://digitalcommons.trinity.edu/geo_honors/14
  • USF Geology Alumni Society Karen D. Harro Scholarship for Women in Geology
  • USF Geology Alumni Society Richard A. Davis (RAD) Award
  • NSF Nitrogen S-STEM Program Scholarship
  • USF Geosciences Tharp Research Fellowship
  • Project Context »

Undergraduate Students

Tyelyn Brigino B.S. student, Chemistry

I am a senior in the Honors College majoring in Chemistry and I plan to go to graduate school in Geology. I am assisting with the Collaborative Tool Development for Promoting Resilient Groundwater Resources and Holistic Watershed Management project on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. I am using AquaChem to construct Piper diagrams and Stiff diagrams of geochemical data obtained from water samples in Alaska. The objective of this work is to determine the relative contributions of groundwater and precipitation to salmon-bearing streams and to household water supply (e.g., wells, community reservoir) in our study area. This information will be shared with resource managers and community members concerned with water supply issues on the Lower Kenai Peninsula.

Project Context »

  • USF Director’s Award
  • Terrell and Neva Sessums Regents Scholarship
  • Kenneth W. Freeman Scholarship

Eric Kastelic B.S. student, Geology

I am a senior in the Honors College majoring in Geology and I plan to go to graduate school in Hydrology. My research interests are in groundwater hydrology, geochemistry, and community engagement. I have been working in the Ecohydrology Research Group since I was a freshman on projects based in both Florida and Alaska. I have assisted with georeferencing historic 1950s aerial imagery in St. Lucie County, FL as part of an ongoing effort to quantify wetland and drainage channel change between the 1850s, the 1950s, and the present day. I also assisted with creation of an ESRI Storymap that serves as an educational tool highlighting the connection between groundwater, people, and fish on the Kenai Peninsula Lowlands in Alaska.

  • Withlacoochee Rock Hound Scholarship
  • US-UK Fulbright Commission Summer Institute Award 2019 - Global Climate Change at The University of Exeter, United Kingdom.
  • Genshaft Global Presidential Scholarship
  • Eagle Scout

James Parker B.S. student, Geology

I joined the Ecohydrology Research Group Dec 2020. I am assisting with data extraction from sediment descriptions found in well logs in the Lower Kenai Peninsula. This information will be used to estimate groundwater recharge and incorporated into a new tool to evalaute potential risks to water supply.

Project Context »

  • Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program Gordinier Fellowship