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Profiles of UMBC IGERT Trainees  
Barbara A. Beckingham
PhD, Civil Engineering
IGERT Mentor: Upal Ghosh

Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry with High Honors, May 2001
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY

Research Interests
Bioaccumulation and remediation of contaminated environments

I am interested in conducting research that uses or improves analytical methods for environmental detection to study the fate and transport of legacy pollutants and emerging contaminants of concern, particularly in aquatic food chains, and then to apply this knowledge to develop assessments of exposure risk and to contribute to policy work. I would like to better understand the anthropogenic influences on ecosystem functions and specifically the methods at our disposal for both correcting past abuses and proactively averting future harm in the spirit of environmental stewardship. New remediation technologies, as well as watershed-scale management of environmental issues, will play important roles in this objective. One geographic area with increased human impact and chance for exposure is the urban environment. This work can blossom under the IGERT umbrella of research partnerships and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

Aditi Bhaskar
PhD, Civil Engineering
IGERT Mentor: Claire Welty

Bachelor of Science, Geology-Physics/ Math, May 2008
Brown University, Providence RI

Research Interests
Quantifying urban groundwater systems

I am interested in quantitative urban hydrology and groundwater modeling. In general, I would like to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of urban groundwater systems. This can be applied to water resource management and problems such as those focusing on how human- produced or naturally-occurring solutes are transported in the urban subsurface, where they end up and how long they take to get there. I will be working on a project which aims to dynamically couple a hydrologic model and an urban growth model of a Baltimore watershed. I also hope to learn about urban water systems much more broadly and from different perspectives through the IGERT program.

Aaron Churchill
PhD, Mathematics
IGERT Mentor:

Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD 2006

Master of Science, Mathematics, University of Delaware, 2008

Research Interests
Mathematical Modeling of Environmental Phenomena

I am interested in studying fluid flow in the environment, as well as modeling human interactions with these phenomena.  I am also interested in the mathematical modeling of water pricing, and the effects this has on water consumption and human habits of water use.

Jonathan P. Dandois
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Erle Ellis

Bachelor of Science, Geography, and GIS Certificate, December 2003

Research Interests
Developing an ecological approach to urban development through GIS modeling

It is my goal to research an ecosystem-model approach to urban development through the use of GIS technologies. Some of the questions I
would like to explore are: How can a GIS be implemented to automate or at least facilitate the urban decision-making process? How can GIS be used to model the ebb and flow of resources, natural and human-made, in an urban environment? How can modern remote sensed data, like high-resolution, multi-spectral imagery or LIDAR surface data, be utilized to improve an
urban ecosystem model? Or: What is the suitability of municipal GIS programs as a data resource for scientific research?

Melanie D. Harrison
PhD, Marine Estuarine and Environmental Science Program (MEES)
IGERT Mentor: Peter Groffman

Bachelor of Science, Biology, May 2005
Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC
Mentor: Joseph Fail


Research Interests
Studying "hotspots" of denitrification in urban restored watersheds

I am interested in nutrient cycling in urban restored watersheds, focusing on "hotspots" of denitrification and a host of microbial variables that play a key role in this process. The IGERT program at UMBC focuses on water quality in the urban environment. My interest lies in monitoring and management of urban stream ecosystems, on a biogeochemical level, looking at environmentally efficient ways of improving denitrification processes that would in turn improve water quality in cities. Nitrate is a pollutant that can enter urban streams from runoff from impervious surfaces, denitrification is a process that removes nitrates from the streams and releases it as nitrogen back into the atmosphere. Monitoring and management of urban restored streams ecosystem is crucial for sustainaing a balanced stream ecosystem, bioterrorist treats, and human health.

Tracy Kerchkof
PhD, Civil Engineering
IGERT Mentor: Claire Welty

Bachelor of Science, Biosystems Engineering, May 2007
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI


Research Interests
Quantifying the effect of urbanization on the hydrologic cycle

My broad interest is contributing knowledge to water resources policy, to identify and develop tools that can be used better predict water resources issues in metropolitan areas. I intend to intensively study and quantify the effect urbanization has on surface water and groundwater processes at a watershed scale, using this information to develop more accurate design and planning tools for urban water resources managers. The IGERT offers me a chance to combine my interests in hydrological modeling and decision making, as well as provides a plethora of resources not available in many places, i.e. being a WATERS Test Bed site and the availability of a U.S. Geological Survey office on campus. 

Anna L. Johnson
PhD, Geography and Environmental Sytstems
IGERT Mentor: Christopher M. Swan

Bachelor of Arts, Liberal Arts, May 2007
St. John's College, Annapolis, MD


Research Interests
Effects of urbanization on dynamics of riparian communities

I would like to explore through my research the connection between urban vegetative population dynamics and changes in ecosystem function.  I am particularly interested in working in urban riparian borders, and using molecular tools to explore plant population dynamics. Can small-scale changes in a dominant riparian plant species ultimately have large-scale effects on a region by impacting such things as food web relations, biogeochemical cycling, soil and sediment microbial communities, and water quality?   By getting a clearer picture of specific interactions in an urban riparian community, I hope to improve our understanding of what makes a sustainable urban ecosystem and increase our predictive abilities.

Garth A. Lindner
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Andrew Miller

MS Geography, August 2008
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Mentor: Kelly Caylor

BA Environmental Studies, May 2006
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN


Research Interests
Runoff dynamics of urban watersheds

Broadly put, my research interests lie in the runoff dynamics of small urbanizing watersheds. More specifically, I specialize in the installation and maintenance of hydrologic equipment and the modeling of storm runoff processes. Observed hydrologic data is used in tandem with hydrologic models to model storm runoff and to validate and calibrate hydrologic models. I also work with landcover data in a GIS to link runoff processes to landcover uses and land change practices. Future development of my research interests includes the geomorphologic changes to stream form and structure and the hydrometeorology of storm events.

Nicholas R. Magliocca
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Erle C. Ellis

Masters of Environmental Management, Environmental Science and Management, May 2008
Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC

Bachelor of Science, Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, June 2006
University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA


Research Interests
Coupled human-natural systems and agent-based modeling

My research focuses on how coupled human and natural systems influence and are influenced by one another over various temporal and spatial scales. To better understand these interactions, I use agent-based computer simulation to represent the systems structures and feedbacks that drive system change. I intend to study how human development alters the form and function of natural landscapes, and how these changes feed-back onto human systems. Specifically, I will be applying an agent-based model of urban growth to explore coupled interactions with the natural landscape. The IGERT program offers me the opportunity to work with colleagues from a wide range of disciplines, and thus bring the most integrated perspective possible to my future research endeavors.

Laura Merner
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Andrew Miller

Bachelor of Arts,  Environmental Science and Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA 2008


Research Interests  

My research interests
include human-environment interactions, fluvial geomorphology, and extreme
flooding events. I am most interested in landscape to regional scale projects, with an emphasis on urban environments.

Daniel Miles
PhD, Public Policy/ Economics Concentration, expected May 2009
IGERT Mentors: Virginia McConnell and Scott Farrow

Master of Public Policy, Environmental Policy and Graduate Certificate in Ecological Economics, May 2006, University of Maryland School of Public Policy, College Park, MD

Bachelor of Science, Political Science; Minor in Economics; Concentration in Environmental Studies, May 2003, The University of Scranton, Scranton, PA


Research Interests
Studying the application of market based incentives to the problem of urban water pollution

My fields of interest include environmental and natural resource economics.   I am specifically interested in researching applications of market-based incentives (pollution credit trading, TDR, etc) that can be utilized to remedy urban water pollution.   My research goals for the IGERT Program include studying the way that different land uses impact water quality and developing trading ratios based on these differing effects to develop an efficient and effective trading program.   I am also interested in looking at the effect that different development patterns and zoning regulations have on water quality.   The data sets and GIS database available through the Baltimore Ecosystem Study will be invaluable as I work to develop computer models to determine the impact of land use on water quality.  

Michael J. Pennino
PhD, Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences (MEES)
IGERT Mentor: Sujay Kaushal

Bachelor of Arts, Biology, Biochemistry, and Chemistry, May 2005, Oberlin College


Research Interests
Carbon and nutrient cycling in urban streams

I am broadly interested in understanding how human alteration of the environment impacts the interconnected processes that sustain ecosystems, particularly the biotic and abiotic factors that control carbon and nutrient cycling in streams and riparian zones. Through my research I hope to develop a holistic view of the processes involved in maintaining water quality and steam biogeochemical transformations, by researching the role of symbiotic communities in streams and wetlands. I plan to study how communities of autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms involved in carbon and nitrogen cycles differ between natural, urban, and restored streams. I also intend to study the relationship between sediment quality, hydrology and important biogeochemical pathways, like denitrification, which removes nitrogen from streams.

Jeanna D. Ragsdale
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Laura Lewis

Master of Science, Soil and Water Quality, University of Florida, 2006

Bachelor of Arts, Geography, Central Washington University, 2002

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Sculpture and Painting, Pacific Lutheran University, 2000


Research Interests
Soil and water quality in urban agriculture

My primary interest is in urban agriculture, but more specifically, I’m interested in how different land management practices affect soil and water quality and overall ecosystem health. My research will focus on soil quality in urban agriculture / community gardens. Soil quality is integral to the development of a sustainable land management system. Changing land use and land cover greatly influence soil properties. These changes influence the accumulation and storage of organic matter, which affects soil microbial populations and distribution, nutrient cycling, and water quality. Soil organic matter affects surface water infiltration and runoff as well as water holding capacity. I will investigate the soil, vegetation, and water management practices on a management continuum from the least to most managed sites and how the land use legacy of each site impacts soil quality and water quality.

Danielle Schwarzmann
PhD, Public Policy
IGERT Mentor: Virginia McConnell

Master of Science, Economics, UMBC, 2009

Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Drexel University, 2007


Research Interests
Cost benefit analysis of storm water management and willingness to pay through surveying.

I am interested in environmental economics and policy.  Specifically I would like to  conduct cost-benefit analysis for different storm water
management systems and determining peoples’ willingness to pay for storm water management systems through surveying.  I have also have conducted research on the determinants of carpooling and energy use in regards to programmable thermostats on UMBC’s campus.

Gwen Stanko
PhD, Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences (MEES)
IGERT Mentor: Sujay Kaushal

Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences, with a minor in Geography, UMBC, 2007


Research Interests
Studying the effectiveness of various low impact development designs at improving water quality in urban water bodies

I am broadly interested in performing research to determine the effectiveness of various low impact development designs on water quality in urban water bodies. In part, I intend to study the effects of low-impact development on the reduction of eutrophication of water bodies downstream of highly urbanized environments. The interdisciplinary nature of the IGERT program will also allow me to learn about the economics associated with implementing and maintaining low impact development designs. Because of the negative effects of ever-increasing urbanization on streams, wetlands and other water bodies, developing cost-effective methods for improving urban water quality is of utmost importance. While conducting this research, I plan to work with urban watershed groups to implement the most beneficial low impact development designs for a given situation.

Olyssa Starry
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Richard Pouyat

Master of Science, Biology (Stream Ecology), Virginia Polytechic Institute and State University, 2004

Master of Science, Environmental Science, American University, 2000

Bachlelor of Arts, Environmental Studies, American University
, 1998



Research Interests
Advancing the mechanistic understanding of biological stormwater treatment processes

My research will address the biological mechanisms via which stormwater management practices such as greenroofs influence urban water quality both temporally and spatially. I wonder, for example, if our knowledge of fundamental ecological processes such as succession can be applied to these management practices in order to enhance our understanding of valuable urban ecosystem functions such as stormwater retention and nutrient uptake. I hope to situate information like this in the context of a Baltimore watershed and construct a model that considers how stormwater management decisions might influence both water quantity and quality over short and longterm timescales. I aspire to educate and advocate around this project, its findings, and sustainable, ecologically-informed urban transformation possibilities.

Robin Van Meter
PhD, Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences, expected May 2010
IGERT Mentor: Christopher M. Swan

Master of Science, Environmental Science/Ecology, December 2003, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Mentor: James R. Spotila

Bachelor of Science, Conservation Biology, May 2000, University of Maryland, College Park, MD


Research Interests
Studying the effects of urbanization on herpetofaunal populations

Freshwater ecosystems have been impacted for decades by anthropogenic chemicals and recently road salt deicers have been identified as a serious threat. I plan to assess the impacts of salt stress in freshwater systems with a particular emphasis on amphibian communities and the food web interactions at work in these systems. It is well documented that amphibian populations world-wide are dwindling and their preservation is key to maintaining the health and biodiversity of many ecosystems. The sustainability of these ecosystems is also critical to human health as a source of freshwater. While the US Environmental Protection Agency has strict limits on the maximum chloride levels acceptable for human consumption, many natural freshwater habitats are increasingly exceeding this limit. To gain a better understanding of freshwater salinization, I will employ an experimental approach by manipulating salt in experimental ponds.

K. Tara Willey
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentor: Christopher M. Swan

Master of Science, Entomology, Virginia Tech, 2008
Advisor: J. Reese Voshell, Jr.

Bachelor of Science, Environmental Science, Virginia Tech, 1998


Research Interests
Benthic macroinvertebrates in urban streams

I am interested in three areas of research pertaining to the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in urban streams: (1) large-scale impacts of stream restoration; (2) the relationship between the benthic macroinvertebrates present in urban streams and their habitat, focusing on the influence of hydrologic regime, to understand the limiting factors for the benthic community; and (3) assessment of management techniques, such as stream restoration and TMDLs, to gauge the impact on macroinvertebrate communities.

Yvette M. Williams
PhD, Geography and Environmental Systems
IGERT Mentors: Richard Pouyat and Laura Lewis

Master of Environmental Science, Conservation Biology, 2003, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT
Advisor: Oswald J. Schmitz

Bachelor of Science, Biology
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, 1995


Research Interests
Urban design and public policy

I want to contribute knowledge to science-based public policy for finding common ground between housing development and wetland protection. Sound environmental planning for community development will require the integration of these issues to develop policies for long term watershed management. The IGERT program theme of “Water in the Urban Environment” offers me the opportunity to integrate my interest in the ecological aspects of flood control of wetlands with emerging directions in urban design for the purposes of creating safe and livable communities. Using elements from landscape ecology theory, I will employ GIS techniques to analyze landscape level metrics for vegetation.

Sheena Young
Ph.D., Chemistry
IGERT Mentor: William LaCourse

Masters of Science, Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 2005

Bachelor of Science, Chemistry, 
Spellman College, Atlanta, GA, 2004

Research Interests
Development of a Chemical Sensor for the Detection of Pharmaceutical Drugs in Groundwater

The primary focus of my research involves the use of analytical methods to develop chemical sensors for the detection of emerging pharmaceutical contaminants in urban groundwater systems.  My goal is to develop a sensor technology that provides rapid and accurate detection of trace levels of pharmaceutical drugs. The presence of prescription drugs in water is a rising concern due to the potential for adverse health affects. They are entering the water streams at alarming rates through human consumption of medication, subsequently absorbed and released through toilet flushing. These contaminants are released into rivers, lakes, and streams and cycle back into our drinking water. IGERT will provide me with the fundamental knowledge and interdisciplinary resources to develop monitoring devices to quantify and potentially map the transport of these contaminants.


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Modified 1/8/10

Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education

UMBC,  Technology Research Center 102

1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, Maryland 21250

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