Dr. Katherine Lininger, Assistant Professor, is a fluvial geomorphologist who studies the interactions between geomorphic (physical) and ecological processes in rivers and floodplains. She is particularly interested in the influence of river and floodplain processes on the flux and storage of organic carbon in floodplain soil and dead, downed large wood. Dr. Lininger also focuses on the interactions between downed large wood, vegetation, and geomorphic processes. She recently received a $407,205 grant from the National Science Foundation titled, "Floodplain ecogeomorphic processes: interactions between floodplain forest characteristics, wood accumulations, and hydrogeomorphology”. Dr. Lininger’s collaborators on the project include Dr. Virginia Ruiz-Villanueva at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Jeff Marr at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory at the University of Minnesota.
Downed, dead wood on the floodplain and in river channels influences physical processes and provides ecological benefits. For example, wood influences how water flows and where sediment is deposited, creates habitat for biota, and is a source of carbon and nutrients to floodplain soil. Previous work has focused on wood in river channels, but understanding wood dynamics on floodplains is a new frontier in geomorphic research. In addition, numerical modeling of wood transport and deposition has only recently been developed.
Dr. Lininger and collaborators plan to use scaled physical models of rivers and floodplains (flumes), numerical modelling, and field observations to determine how flooding, floodplain forest stand characteristics, and physical characteristics of rivers and floodplains cause the deposition of wood onto floodplains. Their work will also assess how wood is transported from floodplains back to the river channel. They plan to disseminate their results to management agencies and restoration groups in the US and Europe that are incorporating floodplain wood into efforts to enhance floodplain ecosystem functioning and habitat creation. Dr. Lininger will also develop K-12, undergraduate, and graduate level laboratory assignments and lessons on floodplain dynamics. The grant is supporting the purchase of a stream table, which is a flume that can be used for teaching. Dr. Lininger will use this stream table in physical geography courses, expanding the types of laboratory activities offered in departmental courses. She will also work with CU Science Discovery, an educational outreach organization at CU Boulder, to attend outreach events and develop interactive activities demonstrating river and floodplain dynamics and the important role of wood in creating habitat for biota.