Research Interests



Dr. Christopher J. Woltemade
Dept. of Geography - Earth Science
Shippensburg University

Graduate student John Herrmann surveying Burd Run in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

I have primary interests in water resources management, hydrology, geomorphology, and stream and wetland restoration. My research reflects the integration of data-driven science with development of socially and environmentally sustainable resources management policy.

I am currently working on a collaborative project (with C Jantz, T Hawkins, S Drzyzga, S Goetz, and P Jantz) to address how multiple stressors of climate change and land use/land cover change will alter hydrologic systems and forest ecosystems in the Delaware River Basin. We are constructing a basin-wide coupled modeling framework that will support societal adaptations to changing risks of floods, droughts, and forest ecosystem response across multiple scales. My role is to model the hydrologic response to extreme precipitation and drought under different patterns and intensities of urban development expected over the 21st century. We are working with resources managers to provide a scientific basis to move planning to approaches explicitly acknowledging future change and uncertainty. We appreciate the great support from the Delaware Watershed Research Fund.

I recently completed research addressing stream temperatures in the Navarro River watershed, northern California. Like many coastal California rivers, the Navarro is host to endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout and has been listed as impaired due to warm water temperatures and excessive sediment loads. The TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) for the watershed addresses those concerns, primarily via riparian forest restoration and efforts to maintain minimum discharges during the dry summer months. My work involved deploying a network of 24 temperature sensors to collect hourly data for two years and then using that data to develop statistical and deterministic models of watershed temperatures. I applied the Heat Source model to address potential changes in water temperatures due to changes in climate, riparian shade, and stream discharge. Two journal articles are in press from this work:

Woltemade, CJ and TW Hawkins.  In Press.  Stream temperature impacts due to changes in air temperature, land cover, and stream discharge:  Navarro River watershed, California, USARiver Research and Applications.

Woltemade, CJ. In Press.  Stream temperature spatial variability reflects geomorphology, hydrology, and microclimate:  Navarro River watershed, CaliforniaThe Professional Geographer. 

Prior to that, I worked with Kurt Fuellhart on a study of water conservation in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, addressing the economic efficiency of providing incentives for residential customers to upgrade fixtures such as toilets and washing machines to high efficiency models. I also spent a summer with graduate student Erick Ammon measuring infiltration on residential lawns in and around Shippensburg, finding that infiltration rates are often substantially lower than published "Hydrologic Soil Groups" would suggest, especially on lots with recent home construction, with significant implications for storm water management.

During 2006 I worked with Jinnieth Woodward (M.S. Geoenvironmental Studies 2006) to assess the water quality benefits of a small restored wetland in Shippensburg, PA. With 2 years of monitoring data we found that the wetland removes over 60% of the nitrate that enters the wetland from a limestone spring. Reducing the loads of this key nutrient will help to improve water quality downstream in Burd Run and contributes to the efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2003 I worked with three Geoenvironmental Studies students to study the potential for wetland restoration to decrease nutrient concentrations in the Conestoga River watershed, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This collaborative effort with the national non-profit group Environmental Defense represents an extension of my earlier research on the ability of wetlands to improve water quality in agricultural areas. (See: Woltemade, C. J. 2000."Ability of restored wetlands to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in agricultural drainage water." Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 55(3): 303-309.)

In 2003 I collaborated with several others to write a white paper on the importance of headwater streams and isolated wetlands. The paper is motivated by potential changes that would limit the applicability of the Clean Water Act to these important aquatic systems. An edited version intended for a general audience was published by Sierra Club and American Rivers:

Meyer, J. L., L. A. Kaplan, D. Newbold, D. L. Strayer, C. J. Woltemade, J. B. Zedler, R. Beilfuss, Q. Carpenter, R. Semlitsch, M. C. Watzin, and P. H. Zedler. 2003. Where rivers are born: The scientific imperative for defending small streams and wetlands. Washington, DC: Sierra Club and American Rivers. [PDF full publication - 3.9MB] [PDF Executive Summary - 395KB]

I have worked extensively on the topic of stream restoration. In 2001 I twice traveled to Nicaragua to provide technical assistance and quality assurance to the USDA/USAID Hurricane Mitch Reconstruction Project, working on 20 different projects ranging from river restoration to soil and water conservation.

I am also involved in a number of projects in the immediate Shippensburg area, focusing primarily on the Burd Run watershed. During 2001-2003 I served as co-Principal Director (with Brian Jaymes, Cumberland County Conservation District) in the effort to restore the Burd Run stream channel, riparian zone, and floodplain wetlands within the Shippensburg Township Park adjacent to the SU campus. The project was supported by a $129,000 Environmental Stewardship and Watershed Protection grant from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener Program. I continue to work with several students studying watershed hydrology, water quality, and geomorphology, as well as monitoring the impacts of the stream restoration project.

Most of the research in which I am involved, and most of my teaching, tends to cut across disciplinary lines, linking together elements from sciences such as hydrology, geomorphology, and aquatic biology. My approach is to better understand the biophysical system in order to support sustainable planning, management, and policy.

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Last updated: 09/19/16