CSU and School of Mines Studying the Mountain Pine Beetle Impact on Water Quality and Quantity

Researchers from Colorado State University (CSU) and the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) are collaborating on a 5-year, $3 million study funded by two 2012 National Science Foundation Water Sustainment and Climate Program grants. The study is focusing on potential water resource changes resulting from the mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic by examining changes in climate, forested ecosystems altered by pine beetle impacts, biogeochemical processes, and resource management practices. The study’s locations are the Platte and Colorado River basins. Each school is researching specific components of the overall, collaborative project.

The $648,929 CSU grant funds the social science portion of the study. Professor John Stednick, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, is the Principal Investigator (PI) and Associate Professor Stuart Cottrell, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, is the Co-PI. Mike Czaja, a FRS postdoctoral fellow, is also participating. The CSM researchers, funded by a separate grant of $2,307,644, include faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students representing the Departments of Geology and Geological Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. The CSM PI is Associate Professor Reed Maxwell, professor of hydrology at CSM.
The interdisciplinary team will merge field observations, laboratory experiments, integrated hydrologic models, and high-performance computing to increase understanding and predictive capabilities for changes to water availability and quality resulting from an unprecedented change to our forests. This work will be complimented by place-based collaborative learning for impacted communities and workshops with water treatment municipalities. Integration of stakeholder perceptions and management responses will further inform and enrich the scientific analysis of water supply. In addition to stakeholder outreach and scenario planning, the team will develop modules that convey key water resource issues to K-12 teachers and students as well as provide training, research, and educational opportunities for undergraduate, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars.
The objective of the study is an improved scientific basis for managing watershed ecosystems in the Platte and Colorado River basins and an enhanced scientific and social understanding of the water supply and quantity challenges for MPB-impacted areas across the Rocky Mountain West. In April of 2013, the team’s work was highlighted on a NBC Learn and National Geographic on-line segment examining water sustainability.
Additional information on the research team, activities to date, and current results can be found at:


Posted on May 13, 2014