Ecohydrologist joins CABNR faculty

Ecohydrologist Dr. Adrian Harpold, PhD.

Adrian Harpold, Ph.D., joined the University of Nevada, Reno in October 2014, after completing his postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona and the University of Colorado. Harpold is an assistant professor working in the department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, with a focus on ecohydrology and the effect of climate change, extreme weather, and ecological disturbance on the Great Basin’s water supply. Excited about his transition to UNR, Harpold feels there is a lot he can contribute to the program.

“My work is the intersection between snow hydrology and physical hydrology. Or more specifically, how snowpack water finds its way into streams and how it is used by the forests and surrounding vegetation. It should be a given, water from snow is vital to the Sierras and Great Basin,” Harpold said.

“It is important for our community to understand that we are water limited, which has both economic and environmental effects. When you consider that northern Nevada’s reservoir infrastructure relies almost entirely on mountain snowpacks to supply our cities and ranches, climate change has the potential to have significant impact on our water reserves.”

Harpold studied Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he received his Bachelor of Science in 2003 and his Master’s degree in 2005. Harpold recalls first becoming intrigued with ecohydrology during his sophomore year of college. “It was a revelation that the ecology of living systems is completely intertwined and interconnected with hydrological processes and functions.”

“My research goals are aimed at achieving a better understanding of future water resources and its effect on ecosystems under environmental changes like climate, vegetation disturbance, fire, changes in land use, and other forms of environmental change in headwater areas.”

A typical fieldsite where Harpold looks at the effects of snowpack and fire on the ecosystem.
A typical fieldsite where Harpold looks at the effects of snowpack and fire on the ecosystem.

Harpold is not reluctant to spread his message and recently gave a talk to the Truckee Meadows Park Foundation. By bringing his expertise to the general public, Harpold hopes to create an outreach program that provides the community with more specific information on current and future water availability for local ecosystems requirements and communities. Harpold is also teaching two courses at UNR, Principles of Ecohydrology and Small Watershed Hydrology.

“My teaching goals are to get students excited about water and ecosystems,” Harpold said. “The first priority is to hopefully blow their minds about how important and interesting these interconnected water and living systems are. In my higher-level courses, I want to provide students with the skillsets needed to become professional hydrologists and ecohydrologists.”

Harpold hopes that he will be able to provide students with the ability to look at environmental and water resource data, while understanding the data collection process and how it might be applied in real-world situations.

Harpold is looking forward to his new career at UNR and is currently enjoying life in Nevada. “I'm happy to be in Reno and I feel like it's a great town for my personal interests,” he said.

Story by Kate Dunlap