About Lee

Lee MacDonald grew up in northern California where he was exposed to the outdoors and saw first-hand the effects of rapid population growth and development. His undergraduate degree at Stanford and M.S. at the University of Michigan focused more on the biological aspects of land use and natural resources. From a scholarship in Germany, Dr. MacDonald moved to Japan where he spent over five years with the United Nations University helping set up research and training programs related to natural resources in developing countries. He completed his Ph.D. in forest hydrology at U.C. Berkeley and a post-doc at the University of Washington before assuming his present position in land use hydrology at CSU.

Website CV


  • Our existence depends on our ability to sustainably use key resources, particularly soils and water. Land use and vegetation have a huge effect on the amount, timing, and quality or runoff, as well as the amount of surface erosion. The ESS department represents a unique opportunity to integrate the physical environment, which is my primary focus, with the biological component. The emerging field of ecohydrology exemplifies these biophysical interactions, as this examines how plants and animals can affect hydrologic processes. Similarly, one also can talk about eco-geomorphology, which examines how the rates of different geomorphic processes, such as erosion, are affected by plants and animals, and how these processes then affect the type and abundance of different organisms. To the extent we can control or modify land use, we can then affect both the hydrologic and geomorphic sustainability at the hillslope or watershed scale. My primary research interests are: 1) how changes in land use affect runoff and erosion, and 2) the processes governing the movement of water and sediment at the hillslope and small watershed scales. Most of my work has been in forested areas, although I also have worked in wetlands and on the effects of urbanization. Initially I focused on the movement of water, but realized that land use usually has a much greater effect on erosion and sedimentation than the amount and timing of runoff. In forested areas roads and fires have the greatest effect, and this has been my primary focus over the last decade. However, I still work on a variety of other hydrology and land use issues both in the US (principally Colorado and California) as well as overseas (e.g., Vietnam, Spain, and Portugal).


Ph.D. , Wildlind Resource Science - University of California
Berkeley California, 1989

M.S., Resource Ecology - University of Michigan
Ann Arbor Michigan, 1981

B.A. , Human Biology - Stanford University
Stanford California, 1974

Selected Publications

Return on investment from fuel treatments to reduce severe wildfire and erosion in a watershed investment program in Colorado

  • Jones, K., Cannon, J., Saavedra, F., Kampf, S., Addington, R., Cheng, A.,... Wolk, B.,